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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during a Cabinet meeting on May 9, 2018, at the White House. Photo: Al Drago-Pool via Getty Images

The Trump administration sent its proposed revisions of automotive fuel-economy standards to its budget office last week, the final step before public rollout. A key effort to address climate change, this Obama-era regulatory plan would greatly reduce car and light-truck greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2025, while the Trump administration seeks to freeze standards after 2020.

What to watch: The freeze would spark a legal battle with California, which wants to maintain the Obama-era standards. Automakers publicly say they don't want this fight, but they set the stage by investing in groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, whose Myron Ebell headed the Trump EPA transition, and asking the transition team to reconsider the standards two days after the election. Now, they might look for California to make concessions before it enters the risky litigation process.

Various parties to this debate claim impacts on other issues — jobs, safety and energy dominance — but the critical issue at stake is the climate. Transportation has become the nation's largest source of GHG emissions; the weaker the standards, the less these emissions get trimmed. Trump's freeze would likely lead to an excess of over 100 million metric tons of GHG by 2035.

Automakers are trying to persuade the administration to maintain enough of a fuel-economy gain to keep California on board. But, given that a more moderate proposal could reflect poorly on Trump, it might be too late to control the anti-regulatory juggernaut they've unleashed.

The bottom line: California may soon feel pressured to either make significant concessions or gamble that the Supreme Court won't rule against the state's ability to set its own standards. Either way, things don't look good for the planet.

John M. DeCicco is a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute.

Go deeper

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Louisiana officials find "probable" Omicron case in cruise ship COVID outbreak — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy.
  4. World: U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 1 hour ago - Health

NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Monday announced a new COVID vaccine mandate for all private companies.

Why it matters: De Blasio, speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said the "first-in-the-nation measure" will go into effect starting Dec. 27. It will apply to approximately 184,000 businesses.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

A big part of America's supply chain is for sale

Illustration: Allie Carl, Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's supply chain crisis is a series of intersecting bottlenecks, including insufficient labor and warehouse space, all driven by surging U.S. consumer behavior. But one piece has gotten short-shift on the attention meter: Chassis, the steel frames on which trucks carry shipping containers.

Driving the news: Apollo Global Management is seeking a buyer for Direct ChassisLink, the largest U.S. intermodal chassis provider, as first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Axios.