Cars, California and Federalism

by Catherine Long

A common theme among the blog posts we have discussed throughout the semester has been President Trump’s dedication to reversing most Obama-era policies in relation to the environment. This article continues this theme, however there is also an added element of federalism at work. Through the 1970 Clean Air Act, the EPA has worked to reduce the emissions from cars by setting stricter fuel economy standards. Under President Obama, great strides were taken to ensure this would be the case until 2025, almost ten years after his departure. The 1970 Clean Air Act also allowed for waivers to be given to states who wanted to set their own fuel economy standards. California has participated in this system and wishes to set stricter fuel economy standards in order to encourage growth in the electric car sector. However, upon taking office, President Trump assured the automobile industry that he along with the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt would review the standards set by the EPA under President Obama and that he would set the standards at a level that would allow cars to be made in America again. Appealing to the growth of the economy and an increase in American manufacturing has been a tactic President Trump has used since his Presidential campaign. However, California plans to move ahead with its stricter standards. This creates a dilemma because car manufacturers have to decide whether to follow California’s standards in order for their cars to be bought in that state or follow the much lower national standards and potentially lose buyers in California. In order to solve this dilemma, California has tried to negotiate with the Trump administration by stating that they will lower their standards if Trump prolongs the Obama-era standards until 2030. This article offers an interesting insight into how states are attempting to influence environmental policy under a President who doesn’t subscribe to environmentally friendly policy.


6 thoughts on “Cars, California and Federalism

  1. This environmental situation is different then the ones we encountered so far. Trump has influenced environmental policy on the federal level, but now we see him influencing it on the state level. Although, why would American-made cars be such a bad thing? American manufactures are perfectly capable of making efficient cars. The first Ford and Chevy models were made in the 1920’s and are still running today. American-made cars will support the country as a whole, including providing Americans jobs. In addition to federalism, partisanship also plays a role in this situation; California is a democratic state and the Trump administration is Republican. Im not surprised that they could not come to compromise, especially on the environment. Clearly, California has a more green idea with wanting to create stricter standards. But, in reality what American is going to pay more for an electric car, when they can get an American-made car cheaper. Im interested in finding out how this situation works out environmentally and economically.

  2. So very clearly, the Trump Admin doesn’t want to budge on a deal. This leaves California in a bit of a tough situation. Do they give in, and allow cars under their standards in, or do they wait it out? Car companies have the option to make all their cars follow California standards too, as this is an initiative that is going to happen sooner or later anyway. If they wait it out, they could just see how the 2020 election goes, and hope of an environmentally friendly candidate to win. Yet even still, this might be too long. Looking at it economically, car companies probably don’t care about the few customers they get in California compared to the rest of North America. California might have to reverse this if they want cars coming in. Otherwise, this is just another thing put into gridlock awaiting for Washington to make a change.

  3. As we’ve seen before various times, the Trump administration is not in favor of environmental policies that positively affect the environment. During Trumps short presidency the administration has been trying to overturn almost all of the Obama policies. Trump is now trying to lower the national standards of which cars are being produced. Although California is firing back and raising their standards. This brings car manufacturers to either lower their standards or lose a large base of customers in California. I believe that other states should join California in enhancing stricter laws and not lowering the standard of the laws. If many other states join California, a movement could possibly start. Although if nobody is to join California, Car producers will probably not care about one state out of all of them and will eventually lower their standards as well. Lowering the standards is only another move of the Trump administration that shows their blatant disregard for the environment.

  4. The idea of federalism dealing with the environment is a very tricky subject. I do not understand why the Trump administration can not just agree to California’s strict standards when it benefits the environment. I am disappointed in the EPA in this senecio as well because the EPA is designed to be the administration that has the best interest of the environment. Instead of doing that they are just listening to what our non-environmental president says because I am sure that Scott Pruitt is just as scared to loose his job just like everyone else that Trump has fired after disagreeing with him. As the president of the EPA he has loyalty to more than our president, he has loyalty to our environment and he is letting the environment down.

  5. I agree with Julia, i think its sad that California has to step in a do the EPA’s job. The emission standards set under the Obama administration are feasible; so for the EPA to enact emission standards less than that would be counter active to the Agencies entire purpose. Any enactment by the EPA should be done with the sole interest of bettering the environment with no outside influences. I think California is not going to budge on their lower emissions levels, and the potential loss of market space may have the ability to persuade the a large portion of the auto industry to follow the California standard. The question is wether or not Scott Pruitt will comes to negotiating table before that, given Trumps history i find it doubtful that he would allow it.

  6. This disagreement begs the question of what is more important the economy or the environment. We are a society that has historically favored the economy over the environment because of corporate greed, but also because there was a time we didn’t know any better. Coal and oil have been used for decades before we even realized the effect it was having on our environment. Now that we know the dangers of these fossil fuels we need a considerable amount of money to change our system. I think the question then becomes do we try to boost the economy so that we can make a quick change, or make changes over time and potentially sink the economy. California is a very wealthy state that can potentially afford the change, but not every state is like this. I think that California has every right to set a their own standard in this, and they have the right to advocate their believe, but Pruitt also has every right to ignore them and do what he believes is the best for this country as a whole.

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