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Trump administration set to face off with California over fuel standards

The Trump administration proposed on Thursday to rescind an Obama-era regulation that aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring automakers to design vehicles that would average 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The move pits the federal government against California, the country’s largest car market. The Wall Street Journal’s Timothy Puko joins Alison Stewart for more.

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  • ALISON STEWART:

    Until this past Thursday, U.S. automakers were preparing to design vehicles that would average 50 miles per gallon by the year 2025. The standard was set by Obama-era regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But now, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have announced a proposal to roll back the requirements. Opposition is coming not only from environmental groups but from states and surprisingly, from some automakers themselves. Timothy Puko of The Wall Street Journal joins us now from Washington D.C.

    Tim, so this proposal has a correlation, suggest a correlation between the fuel efficiency, the cost of the vehicle and the safety of the vehicle. What does this proposal allege?

  • TIM PUKO:

    Well, the Trump administration is saying that if you put standards on fuel efficiency that are too high, it's going to make cars that are too expensive and people aren't going to buy them. And if they don't buy the newest, safest cars, then they don't have the best fuel efficiency or have the best safety standards. They're essentially saying that the estimates for air quality carbon emission improvements that the Obama administration predicted forecast aren't going to come through because people aren't going to buy the type of cars they need to buy to make it happen.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Who lobbied the administration for this?

  • TIM PUKO:

    Well, in the beginning the automakers did. With the vast change in consumer preference once oil prices fell and gasoline prices fell, people were buying more trucks and more SUV again. And the automakers very forcefully, very openly said, no we don't think we're going to meet these mandates. In fact, in the past year, they fell a little bit short of what the Obama era requirements mandated for them. So they asked basically for some relief. They got a little bit more than they bargained for.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    You wrote in your piece that California has a defacto role as an auto regulator regulator for the nation and California is pushing back against this hard. Explain why California is the defacto auto regulator and how it's pushing back?

  • TIM PUKO:

    So, California has been a leader for decades in terms of environmental standards clean air regulations. They were doing it even before the federal government passed the Clean Air Act. They worked in collaboration with the Obama administration to set these standards. There are a dozen other states that also follow those rules and that covers about a third of the country's whole auto market. So effectively, they're the ones with the power because the auto industry doesn't want to build cars for two different standards. Logistically, it will be very difficult. You know, it's very costly. It can be confusing. And this is an industry that spends billions and billions on research and development and logistics. And so if California and the federal government don't agree it's a big problem for the automakers. That's the situation that we've gotten into now. California has this power. They want to keep the rules that have been in place since 2012. But the Trump administration doesn't agree. They want to get rid of them and to do that, they'll have to fight the power that California has. They've put out in this proposal that they have the authority to effectively override or eliminate California's waiver, California's authority. California certainly doesn't agree. That's why this is probably going to go to court and pretty much everyone I've talked to expects that if it does, it will go all the way to the Supreme Court.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    This has to be continued Tim Puko with the Wall Street Journal. Thanks so much.

  • TIM PUKO:

    Thank you.

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