On Thursday, four of the world’s biggest automakers announced they had made a deal with California that undercuts the Trump administration’s efforts to soften harsh vehicle emissions rules that cripple consumers’ capacity to afford new cars.

As The Washington Post reports, Ford, Honda, VW and BMW of North America said they agreed to terms with the California Air Resources Board, issuing a statement in which they asserted, “These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

California’s vehicle emissions requirements have long been stricter than the rest of the nations; the deal would jettison California’s capacity to do that, Axios notes. The Trump administration is attempting to implement mileage requirements for cars and light trucks at roughly 37 miles per gallon on average instead of hiking them to roughly 51 mpg for 2025 models, which the Obama administration successfully pushed for with auto companies.

The proposal would also revoke California’s long-standing authority to set its own rules under the Clean Air Act, a practice the federal government has backed for decades.

Reuters reported, “The stringency of the requirements would increase at a nationwide average annual rate of 3.7% annually starting in the 2022 model year through 2026, and 1% of that annual improvement could be covered by credits awarded for building electrified vehicles.”

Mary D. Nichols, California’s top air pollution regulator, told the Washington Post, “What we have here is a statement of principles intended to reach out to the federal government to move them off the track that they seem to be on and onto a more constructive track.” But White House spokesman Judd Deere countered, “The federal government, not a single state, should set this standard,” while Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Michael Abboud echoed, “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.”

The Washington Post added, “According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, 69 percent of last year’s new-vehicle sales were light trucks — meaning SUVs, vans and pickups — compared with 31 percent for cars. Light trucks accounted for more than half of new-vehicle sales in all 50 states in 2018, with the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram pickup as the nation’s top-three sellers. Those three models alone accounted for 11.6 percent of new-vehicle sales last year, compared with hybrids’ 1.9 percent share and fully electric vehicles’ 1.2 percent.”

One benefit for the auto companies embracing the new plan is this: they obtain credits for implementing green technologies. The Post notes, “Under the new accord, the participating companies will be able to tap into more generous credits than would have been available under the Obama-era rules.”

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