PRESS EDITORIAL: All of us have a stake in states’ fight for cleaner air

The governors of Wisconsin and 23 other states have signed a pledge to fight the Trump administration’s plan to weaken automobile pollution standards. The 24 states represent 52% of the population of the United States. If they succeed in blocking the dismantling of federal fuel economy rules adopted in 2011, 100% of the American population will benefit.

The Trump plan to eliminate the requirement that passenger vehicles get an average of 36 miles per gallon by 2025 is freighted with so many negative consequences that it has few if any defenders outside of the administration.

Opponents, on the other hand, are numerous and outspoken. Besides the states, strong voices representing automakers and other industries, electric utilities, labor organizations and environmentalists are calling on the president to back off.

Even though the burden to meet the 2025 standards is on the automakers, 17 of them have urged the administration to relent in its effort to scuttle the regulations. They point out that California and some other states will enforce the fuel standards now in place for 2025 in spite of any federal action to eliminate them, forcing manufacturers to produce two versions of their vehicles and threatening their companies with “untenable instability” in the market. 

The automakers have been gearing up for the new standards for years, and have the technology to meet them. Suppliers to the auto industry that are developing fuel efficiency technology represent hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S.

Producers of plastic and polymer components that make cars lighter and more fuel efficient are also fighting the Trump rollback. They point out that developing technology for lightweight vehicles spurs innovation and creates highly skilled manufacturing jobs.

Because stricter fuel efficiency requirements would likely increase sales of battery powered vehicles, electric utilities are also fighting the Trump plan. The utilities have invested in vehicle-charging infrastructure in anticipation of the 2025 standards.

Business interests vital to the economy have a stake in the outcome of the battle over automobile pollution limits, but the biggest stakeholders of all are the environment and the people who live in it.

If the Trump administration’s repeal of the emission rules takes effect, as much as 931 million tons of additional carbon dioxide would be discharged into the atmosphere by cars and trucks in America by 2035, according to an analysis by the Rhodium Group research organization.

Carbon dioxide, of course, is the driver of climate change, which is increasingly understood by the public to be an Earth-threatening phenomenon. There is a faint, but not impossible, hope that public opinion could stave off repeal of the auto pollution rules.

Last week in a White House speech, President Trump, to the astonishment of many, touted his leadership in environment protection. This drew widespread scoffs—the president has mocked global warming as a Chinese hoax, withdrawn from the Paris climate-change accord and presided over the elimination of numerous environmental protection regulations—but it was at least an indication that he has noticed that Americans care about the environment.

It was reported that the president was motivated by data presented by a Republican pollster showing that increasing numbers of Americans want more action to protect the environment.

A good way for the president to address that election vulnerability would be to reverse course on the plan to weaken standards for tailpipe emissions, the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. In the meantime, enlightened states, including our own, and their business allies are left to fight the executive branch of the federal government for cleaner air.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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