Planning a last-minute summer getaway before the arrival of fall? Maybe a drive up the coast to Monterey, or to visit the giant redwoods?
A quick check of local gas prices may encourage you. While California prices are higher than in neighboring states, at an average of $3.50 or so a gallon, it’s still a bargain compared to the $5-a-gallon days.
Gasoline prices are at the heart of a lawsuit filed by 14 states against the Trump administration’s rule rolling back penalties on automakers for failing to meet mileage standards established during the presidency of Barack Obama.
If you guessed California is one of the 14 states, you are spot-on. In fact, as one might expect given the sour relationship between the Trump administration and this state’s elected leaders, California is leading the charge, hand-in-hand with New York.
The lawsuit came a week after four major automakers announced an exclusive deal with California to strengthen gas-mileage standards and greenhouse-gas emissions. Participants include Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen, bypassing the Trump administration’s efforts to ease mileage standards nationwide.
For the Trump administration, it’s all about the economy. The president’s rule says the 2015 law doesn’t apply to the mileage penalties, and if it did, nearly tripling the civil penalty rate would have a negative impact on the national economy. We agree — up to a point, and that point will be passed once humans have trouble breathing, finding safe water to drink, and/or escaping to a cool place because of soaring temperatures.
Economists say the Trump mileage-penalty rollback would save the auto industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Other experts see that glass as half empty for consumers, and counter by saying keeping the Obama-era rules would save drivers an average of $1,650 a year in fuel costs.
The concern for the Obama administration was that its officials believed the science community’s point that exhaust emissions and burning fossil fuels are fundamentally changing Earth’s climate in unacceptable ways, a concept apparently foreign to the minds of current administration officials.
California and New York are joined in the lawsuit by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Conspicuously absent from that list is Michigan, where much of the U.S. auto industry is headquartered. But that’s not surprising, as Michigan, and specifically Detroit, face serious economic problems.
It’s a dilemma for a lot of Americans, many of whom are on the fence about climate change. Rhetoric from both sides is conflicting and confusing, even as glaciers melt at alarming rates and continents broil under an intense summer sun.
This legal battle poses a problem for a U.S. auto industry already mired in a serious sales slump. Industry watchdogs say U.S. automakers will likely sell about 17 percent fewer cars than last year.
In the middle of all this is President Trump’s tariffs policies, mainly the ones suggested on European automakers, threatening the luxury-car market for sellers to American buyers.
Also caught in the middle are U.S. car companies that could easily achieve better gas mileage, except super-good-gas-mileage vehicles aren’t the ones U.S. drivers want to buy. Many of us want to go big, which translates to heavier cars and poorer gas mileage.
This is a case in which market demands dictate public policy, which makes perfect sense in the context of the U.S. economy, but not much sense with regard to protecting the planet.