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A Silly, Wrong Attack on Mileage

Terry H. Schwadron

Sept. 21, 2019

Stopping California — and at least 12 other states who agree — that we should be exceeding federal gasoline and mileage standards, known as CAFÉ standards, as Donald Trump has now ordered is not only wrong but silly.

This is the issue on which Trump wants to draw erase the line between federal and state authority — issuing an order that, in effect, is a Regulation from the guy who hates Regulations to waste money on unneeded gasoline and oil, and to continue sending more ozone-eating carbons into the air as our government officially ignores Climate Change.

And then, as to rub salt into the wound, Trump covers his obvious bow to oil and gas interests by insisting that floating this administrative order will improve safety and efficiency — which experts denouce as bushwah — and add jobs to auto-making industries — just as 48,000 General Motors employees are on the picket line for better wages and job security.

This president thinks we all are idiots.

But why stop here. Perhaps Trump has not noticed that his administration has backed cutting federal health and social programs in favor of sending them entirely to the states — — which would necessarily set different rules than the federal standard.

Or that we already maintain 50 separate sets of rules about gun ownership and safety standards, operation of public schools and education achievement standards, state rules on abortion and the requirements for women’s clinics, or, for that matter, the ability to marry a person of choice beyond a former federal standard of one-man, one-woman.

You might as well argue that a state should be punished for setting educational standards higher than the federal government.

What about minimum wage, which is higher in dozens of states than the federal level? What about a stricter prescription drug price in one state versus another? What about state aid to homeless people versus what comes from the federal housing agencies?

Trump himself raised the ante by also charging that the city of San Francisco is violating environmental rules — don’t laugh — by discharging needles from homeless people into the ocean, a situation that the city denies, pointing to filters at city sewage plants.

Insofar as the gasoline CAFÉ mileage standards are concerned, for some decades there has been a federal “waiver” from lower federal standards to allow California to deal with regional air pollution standards. That is what Trump is eliminating, without the basic understanding that what usually is waived is any requirement for lower standards to be raised to a federal level.

That waiver led back in the Reagan days to the establishment of regional Air Pollution Standard boards in California, which through a wide variety of enforcement protocols basically have raised the quality of the air in Southern California.

So, yes, California has become the nation’s leader in pressuring the auto industries into making technical improvements like the catalytic converter that consistently over the years has led to higher mileage standards per gallon. Decades ago, the auto industry accepted the California aspirations as a standard for the country because at least one of every six new cars sold in America are sold in California.

When Trump proposed dropping Obama-era CAFÉ standard improvements, the auto industry balked, standing by the California version that would promote better mileage in specific years.

But Trump has decided, with a compliant Environmental Protection Agency, that we don’t need no stinkin’ improvements in mileage — almost certainly for the sole reason that Obama had backed them.

Even oil and gas companies have gone along with the new mileage targets, in part for the public relations aspect of finding some way to support culminate in efforts that will not hurt them too much in the long run, and in part because they, like the auto industry, like California, all of Europe and Asia recognize that the future of auto making is in building electric and other non-fossil fuel cars.

That’s where the jobs are. That’s the kind of construction that U.S. automakers want to keep in this country.

Trump is not only wrong on this issue. His politicalization of these issues is silly.


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Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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