Four Automakers Make Emissions Deal With California

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Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW struck a deal with California to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions from their new vehicles through 2026.

  • Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW strike a deal with California for tighter smog restrictions than Donald Trump wants.
  • California has a long history of progressive laws that allows the state to set its own clean air guidelines.
  • Trump’s new policies seek to nullify California’s ability to self-govern clean air.
  • Although Trump threatens to sue to gain compliance, California vows to fight back.

Trump has been on a tear rolling back emissions restrictions, continuing to deny the factual basis of global warming. According to Nasa Science, 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that human activities are responsible for climate warming over the past century. Did you know that the 10 warmest years during the 139-year record of tracking worldwide temperatures, the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005? More alarming yet, the five warmest years have occurred in the past five years.

Famous Los Angeles Palm Trees

Four automakers get behind California in fight against Trump

Fortunately, the four automakers cited above have marked Trump’s EPA gift to them, “Return to Sender”. The deal with California pretty much reinstates the plan Barack Obama established with the EPA while he was president. Trump has now put in charge of the EPA Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist. This after Scott Pruitt resigned amid scandal of dismantling EPA protections and misusing his position for personal advantage, including flying first-class on the taxpayers’ dime and renting a condo co-owned by a lead energy lobbyist’s wife at a third of market rate.

In the deal with California, the four automakers have agreed to increase fuel economy of new vehicles to almost 50 miles per gallon by 2026. Plus, the companies will receive credits toward meeting annual targets by adopting climate-friendly technologies.

California fights back

During a conference call with reporters, California Gov. Gavin Newsom reiterated his position on reducing greenhouse emissions. “Clean air emissions standards … are perhaps the most significant thing this state can do, and this nation can do, to advance those goals,” he said. “The Trump administration is hellbent on rolling them back. They are in complete denialism about climate change.”

California happens to be the largest automotive market in the country. With four big automakers lining up on its side, the Golden State has strengthened its position in what may very well turn into a legal battle with the EPA. Notably, Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW together make up 30% of the global car market.

The timing of this deal is particularly significant, as the Trump administration works to finalize freezing fuel efficiency standards—even though many automakers say it will cut profitability and destabilize the industry.

Highway 1 on the pacific coast, California.

Despite the federal government’s saying it’s prepared to win a legal battle, California intends to remain true to its environmental commitment. “If the White House does not agree, we will move forward with our current standards but work with individual carmakers to implement these principles,” said Mary D. Nichols, the chair of California’s Air Resources Board. “At the same time, if the current federal vehicle standards proposal is finalized, we will continue to enforce our regulations and pursue legal challenges to the federal rule.”

California clean air history

California is used to setting its own guidelines to regulate pollution from vehicles. When the Clean Air Act was passed by Congress in 1970, it was already way ahead of the federal government, creating its own laws and standards since the 1960’s. Therefore, as long as California met or bested EPA standards, it  was granted an exemption. Interestingly, other states can’t set their own standards, but can follow California’s. Twelve states have chosen to adopt California’s regulations, including Washington D.C.! For a list of participating—and non-participating states—click here.

Now Trump wants to hijack control of the auto industry and impose looser guidelines and override California’s laws, effectively taking away the right of the state to regulate itself to higher standards. The big four have lined up behind California, putting further muscle behind rejecting Trump’s imminent proposal implementing rollbacks.


It’s unusual for the auto industry to align with a state for greater regulation than the federal government requires. Even if Trump doesn’t have an environmental conscience, we’re lucky that automakers do. Volkswagen especially has risen to take up the gauntlet.

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