While the US is in the middle of one existential crisis, President Donald Trump last week exacerbated another.
Someday, the US will put Covid-19, and the suffering it caused the nation and the world, in the past. People will once again comfortably venture from their homes, the global economy will start humming and life will return to normal.
Unfortunately, that will include revving back up the greenhouse-gas-emissions engine and resuming the dangerous pace of global warming that is now momentarily slowed by the world’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.
Making matters worse, the Trump administration last week rolled back one of America’s most important efforts to slow climate change. It released fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks that severely weaken rules put in place in 2012 by the Obama administration.
It is a defeat for the future of our planet.
The Obama rules required automakers to increase fuel efficiency across their fleets by 5% annually, reaching an average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. The Trump rules roll that back to 1.5% annually, with a target of 40 miles per gallon by 2026.
Then there’s the much bigger environmental concern. At a time when the nation and the world should be reducing their carbon footprint, the new Trump standard would do just the opposite. It would lead to release of nearly a billion more tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide, the New York Times reports.
But that’s not surprising for a president who has rolled back more than 90 environmental rules since he took office; is pulling the country out of the Paris climate accord, making the United States the only one of nearly 200 signatory nations to withdraw; and vacillates on climate change between calling it “an expensive hoax” and a “serious subject” that’s “very important to me.”
For Trump, this is the culmination of a two-stage dismantling of the fuel standards. Last year, the administration issued rules stripping California and other states of their ability to stick with the tougher standards, which were hammered out between the Obama administration, auto manufacturers and this state’s air regulators.
California, which for half a century has led the way on fighting air pollution, seeks to stick with its current rules. The state was part of the negotiations for the Obama-era standards because it had a federal waiver under the 1970 Clean Air Act allowing it to set tougher standards than those of the nation. Twelve other states and Washington, DC, had federal authority to follow California’s lead.
Consequently, California’s standards covered nearly 35% of cars sold in the United States. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued last year to try to keep California’s waiver and now plans to sue to block last week’s rollback of the federal standards.
Meanwhile, California has cut its own deal with car manufacturers. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW have agreed with the state to standards that are much closer to those set by the Obama administration than those in the Trump mandate.
Americans who care about stemming climate change and looking beyond the current existential pandemic crisis have two courses of action: They can vote with their pocketbooks when they go car shopping and they can vote for responsible leadership in November.
In the end, money talks and elections matter. - Tribune News Service
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