The spat between the Trump administration and the state of California has escalated, now that the administration has announced it will be probing several automakers for signs that they colluded with the California government on fuel efficiency regulation. California has long been one of the drivers behind nationwide emissions regulations, as the size of the state’s auto market means that automakers would rather create 50-state compliant cars than build special models just for California. But now the state is seeking to abuse that position in order to foist its own ideas on the rest of the states and the federal government, and the Trump administration is putting its foot down.
The administration has already been combating California’s proposed new fuel efficiency standards, as well as California’s attempt to keep the administration from rolling back existing federal fuel efficiency regulations. But now the Department of Justice is looking into four large automakers who announced this summer that they had agreed to abide by California’s new fuel efficiency standards. Those four are Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen.
Executives at those companies probably thought that they were at the forefront of “woke” capitalism, positioning themselves at the leading edge of what they though was another national push for stricter fuel efficiency standards. Yet now they find themselves in the crossfire between California and the federal government, and are probably wishing they hadn’t tried to get ahead of new regulations. That’s the danger when businessmen try to involve themselves in political efforts, and now those companies are finding out firsthand the problems that can result.
The only reason California has the ability to set its own fuel efficiency standards is because of a waiver from the federal government. That might have made sense decades ago, when the combination of automotive emissions and Los Angeles’ geography helped lead to dense smog. But with air pollution long since cleaned up, the reason for that waiver doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s just being used by California to bully automakers and increase the state’s influence throughout the rest of the country, forcing non-Californians to abide by its edicts. It’s high time for that waiver to be rolled back, so let’s see if the Trump administration can make that happen.