CA auto deal pure politics, loaded with deceptive “credits”, zero climate change impact

Guest essay by Larry Hamlin

California announced an agreement with a group of automakers which claims to reduce future tailpipe emissions by increasing the mileage performance more than provisions proposed by the Trump Administration as reported in a recent L. A. Times article:


“The agreement between the California Air Resources Board and the automakers — Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW — covers about 30% of new cars and SUVs sold in the United States. It presents a direct challenge to the Trump administration’s plans, expected to be formally announced later this summer, to roll back tougher tailpipe pollution standards put in place under President Obama.”

“The deal is a voluntary one, under which the companies are committing to produce a fleet of cars nationwide that would meet California’s higher standards, regardless of what the federal government does. The state would not have the legal authority to enforce that.

But the agreement marks a major strategic victory for California in its fight with the administration over tailpipe pollution and efforts to combat climate change because it splits the auto industry coalition that had begged for relief from fuel economy standards in the early days of the Trump administration.”

The U.S. EPA disputes the value of this announced agreement noting:

“But the Environmental Protection Agency, which has spent more than a year working on new, more lenient standards with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, dismissed the agreement.

“This voluntary framework is a PR stunt that does nothing to further the one national standard that will provide certainty and relief for American consumers,” EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said in a statement.”

The agreement relaxes mileage provisions established during the Obama Administration.

“Instead of producing cars that have to reach a minimum of about 50 mpg by 2025 — as the Obama-era standards called for — car manufacturers would have until 2026.”

The reaction from the environmental community was mixed:

“Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said that “in the face of a total abdication of duties by the Trump administration, today’s announcement is a positive step forward.”

But Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign and the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety, said the agreement would result in less than half of the greenhouse gas reductions automakers had agreed to under Obama.”

As the headline of the Times article suggests (spurning Trump) the article dealt more with the papers political battle with President Trump than it did addressing the complicated and highly circuitous requirements of the agreement.

The California automakers agreements regulatory provisions complexity and nuances were addressed more fully in an Orange County Register article as follows:


“California is holding up the whole world with a demand for an increase in gas mileage of 10 miles per gallon.”

“While some reports have made it sound as if four automakers have sided with human survival while the rest favor total extinction, the actual dispute is less dramatic. California is demanding a fleet average mileage standard of almost 50 miles per gallon and the Trump administration wants to keep the current standard of almost 40 miles per gallon.”

“That agreement called for fleet average mileage to increase to above 50 miles per gallon by 2025, but the Trump administration proposed freezing the mileage requirement at the 2020 level of 37 miles per gallon.

This is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard that has been part of U.S. law since 1975, when it was believed that there was a shortage of oil and only conservation would save humanity from extinction. Decades later, when it turned out that there actually was no oil shortage, the federal government switched to a new rationale for federal regulation of vehicle mileage. Now it’s climate change, and once again, only conservation will save humanity from extinction.”

But the provisions of the California agreement are far from straight forward regarding whether the 50 mile per gallon standard would actually be attained because of an array of “credits” and “advanced technology multipliers” that reduce the mileage target. The article notes:

“California’s deal with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW includes an expansion of “off-cycle credits” for installing non-engine technologies to improve mileage, such as more efficient air conditioners. Some environmentalists think these credits are “a bunch of loopholes,” in the words of Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign. He said California’s agreement with automakers is “probably less than half of the emissions reduction that they committed to” during the Obama administration.”

“The Detroit Free Press reported that the California deal with Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW requires a 3.7% annual increase in the “stringency” of greenhouse gas standards, but allows 1% to be achieved using “advanced technology multiplier credits.”

“Here’s how the newspaper described that part of the deal:

“Appropriate flexibilities to promote zero-emission technology: Continue current advanced technology multipliers that now expire after model year 2021, extending them through model year 2024 at the current 2.0x for Battery Electric and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (BEV/FCEV), and 1.6x for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), tapering off at the current model year 2020 and 2021 levels in model years 2025 and 2026, respectively.”

This crazy and arbitrary complexity is a form of government force, and not only against auto manufacturers. In an earnings call with investors on July 25, Edison International President and CEO Pedro Pizarro said the company is awaiting regulatory approval of its “Charge Ready 2 electric vehicle charging infrastructure program,” which is another way of saying ratepayers are about to get “charged” on their utility bills to support the state’s goal of more electric vehicles on the road.

The calculations and manipulations that go into the enforcement of greenhouse gas emission and mileage standards fill thousands of pages of regulations that are wildly distorting the business decisions of an important industry that employs a lot of people in the United States.

The Trump administration wants a 50-state mileage standard that stays the same after 2020. That’s not unreasonable and it shouldn’t be portrayed as the path to human extinction.”

The article concludes with the following caution regarding the climate alarmist propaganda hyped California automaker agreement:

“If California and the Trump administration can’t reach an agreement on standards, the matter will end up in court and it could be years before automakers have any kind of certainty about how to comply with regulations that affect critical and long-range business decisions.

All the more reason that Californians should look closely at state regulations instead of just assuming that the government knows what it’s doing.”

California government, political and regulatory leaders are falling all over themselves congratulating each other on having negotiated an agreement that has higher increased mileage levels than those proposed by the Trump Administration – with the difference being perhaps 10 miles per gallon by year 2026 for those automakers involved.

These leaders along with the usual climate alarmist propaganda media have hyped this automaker agreement as being required because of its importance in “fighting climate change.” This claim is of course totally wrong and complete rubbish because the world’s developing nations dominate both global energy and emissions outcomes.


By year 2026 EIA forecasts that the developing nations will have increased their CO2 emissions by over 2.2 billion metric tons from present 2018 levels. The CO2 emission reductions nationwide from California’s auto agreement will amount to only about 1% of the worlds developing nations CO2 increase during that period.

This outcome demonstrates that the proposed California automakers deal has no ability to arrest the unrelenting upward climb of global CO2 emissions by the developing nations.

California’s automakers agreement has no role in “fighting climate change.” Claims otherwise are just climate alarmist propaganda political drivel.

The huge global paradigm shift that has occurred with the emergence of the world’s developing nations dominating the planets energy and emissions outcomes establishes that developed nations proposals mandating costly and unnecessary energy and emission schemes because of hyped propaganda claims of “fighting climate change” are invalid and complete bunk.

California’s government media hyped automakers agreement clearly falls in that bunk category.

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Tom Halla
July 30, 2019 4:15 pm

The exemption California has under the Clean Air Act should be repealed. It was of dubious constitutionality in the first place, as it does affect interstate commerce.

July 30, 2019 5:30 pm

Originally, the entire reason for pushing CAFE standards was because the world was running out of oil. That entire line of reasoning is now dead, dead, dead, but still the CAFE standards go on. Nonsensical.

Reply to  wws
July 30, 2019 7:37 pm

Yet another example of the old adage: “Government programs never die”

Bryan A
Reply to  Don
July 30, 2019 8:57 pm

The standard only needs to be a Minimum allowable standard. Nothing would or should stop automakers from exceeding those standards as they choose. If they do decide to exceeded the national standard and produce cars to a more stringent (California) standard which then causes the cars to be far more costly and far less safe, the public will decide which they prefer to own and drive, even if they have to move to another state to do so.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  wws
July 31, 2019 3:26 am

You’ve clearly forgotten, the World ran out of oil years ago just as predicted! 😉

Mark Broderick
July 30, 2019 5:31 pm

“Motor Mouth: Tesla is (literally) going up in flames
Firefighters are submerging burning Teslas for up to a week to quell intractable fires”

“Teslas going up in flames are fairly regular news nowadays, even if the Internet seems always amused, often amazed and sometimes downright terrified at the pyrotechnics Elon Musk’s lithium-ions can produce with seeming spontaneity.”

Reply to  Mark Broderick
July 31, 2019 10:56 am

How exactly is the claim: “Tesla vehicles go up in flame ten times less than gasoline fueled cars” established?

Teslas are relatively newer vehicles with far less wear-and-tear experience than the vast majority of ICE cars. An older poorly maintained ICE car will have increased fire risk due to fuel system failures over a newer car. New ICE cars rarely have fuel issue fires.

Teslas are failing new vehicles. One might reasonably worry if new Teslas are failing at this rate, what will be the failure rate of old, marginally maintained Teslas?

July 30, 2019 5:32 pm

Voluntary? So is it like The Paris Agreement if you don’t comply you will be shamed and vilified but in California you won’t be checked and your word is OK? Nothing more than virtue signaling? A bad part is everyone who buys any of those makes is paying for it.

D. Anderson
Reply to  markl
July 30, 2019 6:38 pm

They should make it voluntary for Ca customers.

You can buy the Ca version that has a maximum speed of 50 mph and goes from 0 -50 is 10 minutes.

Or you can buy the version everyone else buys that runs like a striped ass ape.

Their choice.

Mark Broderick
July 30, 2019 5:33 pm

“Teslas going up in flames are fairly regular news nowadays, even if the Internet seems always amused, often amazed and sometimes downright terrified at the pyrotechnics Elon Musk’s lithium-ions can produce with seeming spontaneity.”

July 30, 2019 5:34 pm

I wonder what happens if president Trump walks away from a bad deal with CA? He has been known to do that, and he has talked about the need to walk away if you must. So it is not outside the realm of possibility.
1) The regulatory environment for the US is split. CA has one stringent standard, the rest of the US has another set of standards.
2) ?????????
(What now?)

The way the CA politicians are celebrating, they seem to think that Trump and the EPA will not/can not walk away, and they have already won. They should not be so sure.

As an aside:
The regulations are perverse. On several of my trips to the islands of the Caribbean, I have often seen and sometimes rented small little runabout cars. They are fun, get outstanding gas milage, and are great for zipping around the island. They are made by all the usual suspects, Toyota, Honda, you know the names. These cars make a lot of sense, especially as gasoline is very expensive down there. One car in particular, I would really want to own here, but it is not available in the US. None of the little runabouts are.
They would be perfect for fulfilling the EPA mandated for high millage cars.
They are small, low cost vehicles. The profit on the product line would never pay for the insanely complex and expensive process of demonstrating that the vehicle meets the regulatory requirements and can be approved for sale.
So the regulations prevent us from getting the cars the regulations require.
Let that sink in. I say let CA do what it wants. If they do a crash and burn, and end up as a great big smoking hole in the ground, fine with me.
Always more, more, more regulations. Never once has anybody ever suggested going through and cleaning up the thicket of old, obsolete, and counterproductive regulations which have built up over the decades. Not Once.

Reply to  TonyL
July 30, 2019 6:03 pm

“They are small, low cost vehicles. ”

And North Americans don’t want them, as demonstrated by US manufacturers eliminating most of their car production in favor of SUVs and trucks.

It’s true that there are a lot of vehicles that could be brought to the US if regulations didn’t make it impossible or impossibly expensive. But Americans wouldn’t buy them anyway.

Reply to  MarkG
July 30, 2019 7:55 pm

It is important to realize how the cost of regulations affects things all around.
One number that i saw getting thrown around a lot, perhaps 5 to 10 years ago, was ~5,000 to 7,000 dollars per vehicle. For the purchase price of 14,000 dollars for a small car, the regulatory cost was a huge part of the price. The consumer easily perceived that they really were not getting a lot of car for their money. They were right, of course. They were faced with paying $14,000 for what was, in essence a $7,000 car with a $7,000 regulation burden. In contrast a $35,000 vehicle would have a smaller percentage of the price as regulation burden, and be seen as a better value as car for the dollar. Next consider the light trucks and SUVs, with relaxed engine emission regulations, and the fixed burden goes from $7,000 to $5,000, providing an even better value to the consumer.
I am sure this explains much of the popularity of SUVs and light trucks that we see today.
All I suggest is get the regulatory monster under control, and prices for small cars will go right back down to where they belong. Then you might see their popularity increase. Small cars are not for everybody, but they historically have always had a place in the US market. But nobody is going to pay $14,000 for a $7,000 car.

Reply to  TonyL
July 30, 2019 10:44 pm

Maybe. But the thing is, the perpetual shrieks of ‘Moah MPG! Moah MPG!’ from the Watermelons have resulted in SUVs that aren’t much less fuel-efficient than a small car.

My Subaru Forester told me I got 45 (Candian) MPG on my drive home from work the other day. Maybe a small car would have got 60 MPG, but I’d have sacrificed half the power, much of the space, and the AWD to do that.

I spend about $1200 on gas in a year, so if that small car was always going to always get 1/3 better MPG, it would save me about as much as Trudeau’s ‘Carbon Tax’ added to the cost of gas this year.

So the benefits of small cars aren’t there the way they used to be when most Americans drove V8s getting 12mpg and a Civic got 50mpg instead (and a Civic is no longer a small car).

Martin Cropp
Reply to  MarkG
July 30, 2019 11:40 pm

And let’s be honest, most people these days are volume challenged, and wouldn’t fit in them.

I done been to over 40 states of the USA, and have seen it first hand. Big people need big cars.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  MarkG
July 31, 2019 7:05 am

“And North Americans don’t want them, as demonstrated by US manufacturers eliminating most of their car production in favor of SUVs and trucks.”

I think this has a lot to do with the really poor backseat seating available in most sedans. I rode in the back of a luxury Chrysler 300 once for about 150 miles and it was a very uncomfortable ride that I wouldn’t want to repeat. Very large people would be extremely uncomfortable in such a backseat. SUV’s give everyone adequate seating.

Reply to  TonyL
July 30, 2019 6:11 pm

So the regulations prevent us from getting the cars the regulations require.

Repeated for effect.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  davidmhoffer
July 30, 2019 7:27 pm

Probably two different departments.
One is worried about vehicle safety, the other is worried everybody will die.

Reply to  TonyL
July 30, 2019 7:52 pm

No loss to Trump….. CA is already all in on the Left.

D. Anderson
July 30, 2019 5:41 pm

This is a leftist “compromise”. We will do it exactly our way but we’ll give you an extra year to do it and get your mind right.

car manufacturers would have until 2026.”

July 30, 2019 6:04 pm

“These leaders along with the usual climate alarmist propaganda media have hyped this automaker agreement as being required because of its importance in “fighting climate change.” This claim is of course totally wrong and complete rubbish because the world’s developing nations dominate both global energy and emissions outcomes.”
The growth of developing nations emissions hardly effects the CO2 content in the atmosphere (Harde 2019 and Berry 2019) so even if they dominate world emissions they have no measurable effect on the temperature. Likewise reducing our emissions won’t change the concentration enough to measure. Atmospheric CO2 is controlled by nature not fossil fuel emissions.

July 30, 2019 6:10 pm
John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Goldrider
July 30, 2019 9:12 pm

I rank “climate crisis” right up there with the massive increase in Unicorns.
The reddish-brown ones are fine. They eat natural shoots and leaves, but all the
other colors appear in the garden.

D. Anderson
July 30, 2019 6:32 pm

This is less of a problem these days. You have one program for Ca cars and a different one for everyone else.

The Ca program results in a crimpled vehicle but everyone else gets one that works great.

Hey, their choice.

lee Riffee
Reply to  D. Anderson
July 30, 2019 9:42 pm

I agree; let them have their crummy cars and trucks if that’s what they want. The rest of the country will be able to purchase vehicles that fall under the federal standard and not CA’s nutty restrictions.

Reply to  D. Anderson
July 30, 2019 10:22 pm

Note the article – it says that the manufacturers agreed to do this nationwide.

Not that it bothers me in the least; I’ve always been a Dodge fan.

July 30, 2019 6:40 pm

Unfortunately, I live in California, so I am “more than pleasantly acquainted with” some of the stupid, delusional, and power happy governments around here. I have some requirements that California “regulations” don’t take into account. I need a car that has enough ground clearance to handle some pretty uneven areas and not have the bumper pulled off when I park. It must be able to tow a trailer that is close to 2,000 pounds loaded. I have some concern for safety, so I want no “aluminum foil” anywhere in the structure including sheet metal and bumpers. I have seen a horse mildly back into the side of an older pickup and dent the sheet metal about a foot across and 1-2 inches deep. And, I can not possibly afford a new car.

July 30, 2019 7:43 pm

Shifted or shared climate change impact.

July 30, 2019 7:50 pm

30 years ago the go to ‘ecological’ cars were diesels and my family bought them: now they are electric or hybrid – my brother with the electric has to have a second car, a hybrid. I am regarded as altright because I like an engine with a bit of zip. 7 years ago we traded a hot saloon for a 2000 F150 wehn we needed to move building materials – got to love it.

John F. Hultquist
July 30, 2019 9:02 pm

I have a PZEV — partial zero emission vehicle

I’ve studied a bit of math and “partial zero” seems to mean Zero, or as the Joker said “zero, zip, zilch, nada”!

In California, apparently, a part of zero is not any of those, but something else.
Crazy folks, those Californians.

July 30, 2019 9:22 pm

They always ignore the deaths caused by CAFE:

The higher CAFE standards sought by the Bryan bill would force Americans truly to pay in blood, increasing the number of highway deaths attributable to CAFE by as much as 8,600 per model-year fleet.

The evidence is overwhelming that CAFE standards result in more highway deaths. A 1999 USA TODAY analysis of crash data and estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that, in the years since CAFE standards were mandated under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, about 46,000 people have died in crashes that they would have survived if they had been traveling in bigger, heavier cars.5 This translates into 7,700 deaths for every mile per gallon gained by the standards.


Iain Reid
July 30, 2019 11:15 pm

If you start using the Imperial gallon it will improve fuel economy by 20%.

Reply to  Iain Reid
July 31, 2019 7:48 am

How does 50mpg EPA rating help when every car in CA spends most of its time idling in gridlock anyway?

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 31, 2019 1:29 am

It is disappointing that car manufacturers collude with this greenwash nonsense and in the long run it will only encourage the sharks to come back and keep taking more chunks out of them.
Why is it only Trump and a few Eastern European leaders who are showing the guts to stand up to the lies and deceits of the alarmists and greens?

The Tesla car heating system reminds me of the phrase “liar, liar pants on fire”.

Doug Huffman
July 31, 2019 3:42 am

Just amazing! It is amazing that every day the value (sum of intrinsic and extrinsic) of my huge diesel BMW increases.

Bruce Cobb
July 31, 2019 4:16 am

I have an idea for increasing mileage on cars using hamsters running on wheels connected to the power train. Of course, you need quite a few of them, taking up all cargo space, and for extra power, passenger space as well. These engines would be called “Hammies”, so for example, the most powerful one using 100 hamsters would be a “Hammie-100”. Patent pending.

Tom Abbott
July 31, 2019 7:11 am

Meahwhile, the auto manufacturers are continuing to make cars with 500, and 600, and 700 horsepower right off the showroom floor.

There seems to be a disconnect here somewhere. 🙂

July 31, 2019 7:58 am

Thanks for filling in the information gaps in the story from other news sources and headline writers.

Details matter.

Logic and Reason
July 31, 2019 9:52 am

Most people in CA aren’t buying vehicles that meet the 37 MPG standard, much less 40 or 50. Any suggestion that they are is just accounting tricks.
The PEV is the biggest scam. They get to say that their cars get 100+MPGe, but in CA, they don’t.
A PEV will go about 3mi/kWh. Residential electricity rates, according to my bill, are about $.43/kWh and gas is $3.35/gal. My math says that, if I had a PEV, I would get 23 MPG.

July 31, 2019 12:01 pm

“zero climate change impact”, eh? must have some impact or the EPA political appointees (i.e., former oil lobbyists?) would not have their shorts in such a knot.

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