Electric vehicles are going to render the fight over fuel economy standards moot

The auto industry is headed for revolution, Trump notwithstanding.

Though it may seem like several dozen scandals ago, the Trump administration is just now finalizing plans to freeze national fuel-economy standards in place, rather than steadily increasing them as Obama planned.

This is a terrible idea, for reasons I have detailed at length — it will cost consumers more, ensure more air and climate pollution, and, obviously, yield less fuel-efficient vehicles. It’s a bad idea economically, environmentally, and in terms of America’s international reputation.

I’m not going to go through all that again, though. Instead, in this short post, I want to do two things: point out a fact about the political calculations of this plan, namely, that it is opposed by the very corporate entities for which it was designed; and, second, make a bold prediction about the effect of electric vehicles on this fuel-economy debate. Basically, I think EVs are going to render the whole dispute moot!

First, the fact.

Car companies don’t like this plan

Car companies have acted with grotesque dishonesty throughout the history of the fuel-economy debate. It was only when Obama bailed them out — literally saving them from bankruptcy — that they agreed to come to the table to work out increased national standards.

When Trump took over, they immediately reversed course and, like jackals, descended on the new administration, pleading for regulatory relief, for a few more years of SUV profits.

And as in so many other areas, Trump gave business what they wanted. More than what they wanted. So much of what they wanted that they don’t want it anymore! Let me explain.

The administration has been holding public hearings on its proposal, and not surprisingly, it has received a torrent of opposition from the usual suspects — environmentalists, health groups, California. What is somewhat surprising is that considerable opposition has come from the auto companies themselves. (Also speaking out against, Axios reports: Shell Oil! When you’ve lost Shell …)

Ford has opposed it, along with the United Auto Workers. “Let me be clear,” said Bob Holycross, Ford’s global director of Sustainability & Vehicle Environmental Matters. “We do not support standing still.” GM and Chrysler have also lobbied the administration to alter its plans.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a major automaker trade group, has also opposed the plan. “We support standards that increase year over year,” said AAM CEO Mitch Bainwol at a hearing.

“The industry is united in its request that the agencies work out an agreement with California” for a single, rising national standard, Honda said in recent comments.

As for Trump’s plan? “We didn’t ask for that,” Robert Bienenfeld, Honda’s assistant vice president in charge of environment and energy strategy, told the New York Times. “The position we outlined was sensible.”

Read more: Vox

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