Automakers are urging the Trump administration not to freeze fuel efficiency standards after the year 2022.
The standards were meant to help the United States reduce carbon emissions and meet the terms of the Paris Agreement. In the final days of the Obama administration, federal regulators finalized rigorous fuel economy improvements for 2022 to 2025, reaching a real-world mpg average of about 35 miles per gallon.
But after Donald Trump was elected, automakers complained to the new administration that the standards were too difficult to meet and asked the government to re-open the process of determining the final standards.
However, automakers got more than they bargained for. Following the lead of President Trump, who has called climate change a myth, and who pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, new leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to drop the 2022-25 standards altogether.
That sets the federal government on a collision course with California, which has a federal waiver to set its own rules and there's no way the state will go along with this.
So automakers would have to build two sets of cars to meet federal and California standards - or deal with the uncertainty of lawsuits filed by the U.S. and California over the waiver.
Now, the Automotive Alliance, a trade group for the auto industry is asking the federal government to negotiate with California. In a letter to federal regulators, the group explicitly acknowledges the reality of climate change, and the auto industry's responsibility to help deal with it.
The Alliance says the standards should in fact increase by some percentage every year between 2022 and 2025, and suggests that the new standards go beyond 2025.