Simanaitis Says

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TRUMP, CALIFORNIA, AND THE AUTOMOTIVE BUSINESS

TRUMP IS BENT on undoing just about anything that the Obama administration accomplished in its eight years. If he ever finds out that President Obama slept reclined in pajamas, you can bet The Donald would insist on sleeping standing up in his bespoke blue suit and oversize red tie.

Trump’s actions with the automotive business are a good example. The New York Times, September 18, 2019, offers an opinion on this: “Trump Muddies the Air.” Its Editorial Board writes, “To dismantle the Obama climate legacy, he’s taking on California, the auto industry, the Clean Air Act, and public opinion.”

Here are tidbits on these points, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

The Bay of Smoke. As someone once quipped, the Los Angeles Basin is a helluva place to promote a civilization that burns stuff. It was so in 1542, when Spanish explorers encountered what they named Baya de los Fumos, “Bay of Smokes.”

Today, we call it San Pedro Bay.

This statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Pedro’s Cabrillo Beach commemorates his commanding the two ships exploring what is now the Southern California coast.

Nathan Masters gives details in KCET Lost LA, March 28, 2013: “The smoke’s origin remains a mystery. It may have been cooking fires burning in the many Tongva villages that dotted the Los Angeles coastal plain and interior valleys; in the sixteenth century, Southern California was one of the most densely populated regions in North America, and the area’s inversion layer would have trapped campfire smoke then just as it traps automobile exhaust today.”

A California Legacy. In 1947, the Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District, the first of its kind in the country, began studying the problem. By the early 1950s, automotive pollution was identified as a culprit. Continued research resulted in establishing tailpipe emissions standards in 1966, California’s being first in the nation. The California Air Resources Board was established in 1967.

The state’s heritage in clean air and automobile efficiency is evident today in EPA City mpg numbers. This EPA test cycle is based on the LA-4, a real-world drive in downtown Los Angeles. (The cycle’s brief speed burst? It’s the Harbor Freeway, U.S. 110.) By the way, EPA Hwy mpgs are based on a drive around Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The California Exemption. In the federal Clean Air Act of 1970, it granted California the right to enforce more strict emissions standards, provided the state could show compelling need. As The New York Times Editorial Board cites, “Congress has repeatedly reaffirmed that right, and in 1977 it said other states could legally opt in to California’s standards.”

Today, these states include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

The Editorial Board notes, “One problem with California’s aggressiveness is that it created a two-tier market for automakers—one set of cars for California and states that had joined in, another for the rest of the country. To address that, in 2009 President Obama forged a major agreement with all the players—industry, California, and the federal agencies with control over vehicles—to harmonize competing demands and, in effect, create a single market.”

“As part of the deal,” the Editorial Board continues, “he began a series of executive actions to increase fuel efficiency and decrease global warming emissions—culminating, late in his term, in a rule requiring automakers to hit an average of about 54.5 miles per gallon by the model year 2025.”

54.5 MPG?? As detailed here at SimanaitisSays in “54.5 Mpg and the Misinformed,” this fuel economy goal is based on federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy computations, not in the EPA City/Hwy numbers. As I noted back on August 30, 2012, “… EPA has estimated that the 54.5 mpg embodied in 2025 CAFE would equate to a real fleet average of around 39 mpg. Part of this is attributed to CAFE giving mpg credits for things like advanced air conditioning and the like.”

Trump Evidently Doesn’t Read SimanaitisSays.… “As with nearly everything connected with his predecessor,” the Editorial Board observes, “Mr. Trump hated the rule, and in August of last year proposed freezing fuel economy improvements at about 37 miles per gallon, while also revoking California’s special authority. California said it wouldn’t budge, negotiations ensued, but nothing happened.”

Is Trump talking CAFE 37 mpg or EPA City/Hwy 37 mpg? I doubt that he understands the difference. As I noted in 2012, “A typical car averaging 35.5 mpg of CAFE’s 2016 standard would deliver about 27.5 mpg in the real world.”

It Ain’t Over. Perhaps “nothing happened” is a misnomer. There are court cases a’brewing. The Editorial Board notes that BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen have pledged “to build cars nearly as clean and efficient as those mandated by the final Obama rules.” And it cites a Pew Research study that two-thirds of the American people want automakers to build these cleaner, more efficient cars. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

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