cleaner transportation and alternative fuels

Gasoline and diesel transportation fuels represent a major share of America’s most pernicious air pollution, water-borne toxins, and climate emissions. While we presently have better technological choices for cleaner electricity production than for transportation fuels, there is still significant progress available from more fuel-efficient vehicles, hybrid technologies, and alternate fuels. There is also much future promise in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle technologies. CEERT has been working to clean up CO2 from cars and trucks, promote smarter transportation and development planning, and help develop an alternate fuel-distribution infrastructure as near-term means to reduce the impacts of fossil-fueled transportation.

Recent Developments:

In July, Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), announced a dramatic agreement on vehicle emission standards with four of the world’s largest automakers:  BMW, Ford, Volkswagen and Honda.  Under the agreement, the four companies would comply with California’s already adopted GHG emission standards and with fuel economy rules adopted by the Obama Administration.  In exchange, CARB agreed to give the companies some additional flexibility and incentives to adhere to the regulations.  The agreement would bypass the Trump Administration’s rollback of Obama-era fuel economy and emission standards, because the companies agreed to comply with CARB’s standards in all 50 states.

The agreement was negotiated in utmost secrecy after negotiations with the Trump Administration broke down, and lays the foundation for CARB to adopt the next generation of tighter vehicle GHG emissions standards for 2024-2026, which CARB has announced it intends to develop and approve in 2020.  If Trump is reelected, it is likely his administration would override California’s waiver to its own vehicle standards, setting off a major court challenge.  In the meantime, California and national environmental groups are mounting a campaign challenging General Motors, Toyota, and other car manufacturers to join the agreement signed by the “Green 4.”

V. John White worked behind the scenes in 2017 and 2018 with Vickie Patton and her consulting team of former CARB and EPA vehicle emission experts to develop a plan for negotiating some relatively minor adjustments in the Obama/California standards, which several of the auto companies had previously asked for, but EPA had not included by in the final regulations adopted in January 2017 by the outgoing Obama Administration.  The idea was to pull those companies thought to be receptive away from the national car company lobby, which was fearful of the wrath of Trump.  

The companies had hoped to broker a deal between California and the Trump Administration, but hardliners in the Administration, and lobbying by the oil industry, blew up any chance of an agreement.  The Administration’s decision to go far beyond the relatively minor changes to the regulations the auto industry wanted, and instead pursue a frontal assault on existing fuel economy rules, combined with the skilled diplomacy of Mary Nichols and senior CARB staff, resulted in a tremendous victory for California, and opened up a huge rift between the “Green 4,” the auto alliance and the Trump Administration.