Nov 19, 2019

The climate war over cars intensifies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The high-stakes fight over vehicle emissions and mileage rules is getting more intense and drawing in new combatants.

Driving the news, part 1: California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state government would only buy cars for their fleets from automakers that reached a deal with the state on increasing emissions standards.

  • Ford, VW, Honda and BMW struck a deal with the state last summer that bucks the White House effort to roll back Obama-era standards for vehicles built through the mid-2020s.
  • "Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California’s buying power," Newsom said in a statement on the policy first reported Friday by the site CalMatters.
  • That means ending purchases from GM, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and others siding with the administration in litigation over federal efforts to curb California's power to set rules that roughly a dozen other states follow.
  • The important numbers: Per Reuters, California bought nearly $59 million in vehicles from GM in 2016-2018 and nearly $56 million from Fiat Chrysler in the same period.
  • Quick take: This is increasingly a game of hardball. Remember the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust inquiry into the four companies that reached the deal with California.

Driving the news, part 2: Electric vehicle makers Tesla and Rivian are joining the fray.

  • They're members of the National Coalition for Advanced Transportation — a group that also includes several power and EV charging companies — that has joined litigation on the matter.
  • That group filed a motion Friday to intervene in cases filed by California and the Environmental Defense Fund challenging a Transportation Department finding that its purview over fuel economy preempts state tailpipe CO2 rules.
  • The group supports maintaining California's standards and zero-emissions vehicles program, and the motion lays out the parties' interests — including Tesla's ability to keep earning valuable compliance credits under the current rules.
  • Bloomberg Environment has more.

Where it stands: Those lawsuits, by the way, are two of a growing number in the administration tussle with California. On Friday, California and a suite of other states filed suit against EPA for yanking the state's Clean Air Act waiver to set standards that go beyond federal rules.

Why it matters: It's one of the most intense and consequential regulatory battles of the Trump era.

  • Transportation is the nation's largest carbon emissions source. And new Energy Department data shows those emissions rose again last year.
  • Meanwhile, automakers want a single set of national rules as they make billion-dollar bets on their future fleets. But the powerful industry has splintered on how to get there and what the standards should be.

Go deeper: The bumpy transition toward electric vehicles

Go deeper

California won't buy from automakers who side with Trump on emissions

Traffic backs up at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza along Interstate 80 in July. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California confirmed Monday that it won't buy new government vehicles from automakers who backed President Trump in his carbon emissions war with the state, the New York Times reports. GM, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota are among those set to be affected by the move.

Driving the news: The three big automakers and others announced in October that they were joining the Trump administration's side in litigation over its move to stop California from imposing emissions rules and, by proxy, mileage requirements that are tougher than federal standards, per Axios' Ben Geman.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

The state of U.S. energy-related carbon emissions

Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. carbon emissions from energy rose by 2.7% last year, ending several years of declines, federal Energy Information Administration data confirms.

Why it matters: While emissions have been in a generally downward trend for well over a decade, the report late last week shows how the U.S. is off track to meet its pledges under the Paris climate deal.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

It's every carmaker for itself

The once monolithic automotive industry is splintering over a range of issues, as companies scramble to cope with unprecedented technological disruption and business challenges.

The big picture: Although fiercely competitive in the showroom, automakers have long presented a united front on shared interests like trade policy, government regulations and labor relations. That's all gone out the window lately; now it's every man for himself.

Go deeperArrowNov 22, 2019