I’m a big fan of federalism and self-governance, but I support President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw California’s ability to set its own separate greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles.
While this might seem counterintuitive — why not let the states decide? — this is a slightly more complicated issue than the embittered social media posts indicate. In fact, this isn’t about states’ rights at all.
We all know that it’s impractical for automakers to comply with 50 different sets of environmental regulations, so Congress set a national standard. Congress gave my former home state of California an exception because of the state’s severe smog problem, which was described as a “compelling and extraordinary” conditions. I’d say. In some places, it was hard to see your hand in front of your face.
But give California an inch, it’ll take a mile. And that’s exactly what it did with this waiver. Instead of using the exemption to curtail smog, California used the waiver to push its super liberal environmental agenda down the throats of all Californians. The state’s greenhouse-gas rules are meant to solve the “climate change” crisis, not deal with smog.
Fine. People who live in California know what they’re getting into. That’s why my family and I got out of there, along with thousands of others who are participating in the great outward migration.
But during Barack Obama’s administration, California leveraged its size and power to influence the nationwide regulations. That meant that car prices went up and manufacturers sold Texans and Mississippians cars that met the California standards — whether they believed in the hocus pocus global warming or not.
Someone needs to show California the map so it can learn that the whole nation does not revolve around its misguided, unscientific environmental policies.
Come to think of it, that’s sort of what President Trump is doing.
President Trump is right to get rid of California special waiver, but he should also do away with all of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards while he’s at it. These standards, created after the 1973 Arab oil embargo caused oil prices to shoot through the roof, need to be eliminated for several reasons:
1. CAFE standards kill Americans. Because these regulations focus on fuel efficiency, car manufacturers are pressured to make lighter cars by using less steel. Weight reduction is the main way that manufacturers comply with the standards, even though it’s much more dangerous.
2. CAFE standards haven’t really reduced our dependence on oil. The truth of the matter is that manufacturers were incentivized to make more fuel-efficient cars is when high mileage imports became available. Also, when the gasoline prices were high for a long period of time, the American manufacturers invested $88 billion to make their vehicles that ran more efficiently and less expensively. This is basic supply and demand stuff. Economics 101.
3. CAFE costs American jobs. CAFE regulations mean that each car costs more money than it otherwise would cost. When an item or service costs more, demand goes down. When people buy fewer cars, it costs auto manufacturers their jobs as manufacturers move their facilities overseas where labor is less expensive.
4. CAFE regulations don’t create the desired effect. Would it be great if everyone had a fuel-efficient car? Sure. But people can’t afford to pay the higher prices for such cars, which means they keep their older, gas-guzzlers for a longer period of time. This means that there is more pollution due to misguided regs.
5. CAFE regulations undermine the free market. If Congress doesn’t intervene on gas prices — as it did in the 1970s — then people will have a natural incentive to use less gas. They’ll seek out more efficient cars, which means that manufacturers will have a financial incentive to create them. In fact, some car manufacturers have already told the state of California that they will continue to make cars that meet their requirements, no matter what happens with the Trump administration. This is great — capitalism at work.
The Heritage Foundation summed up the issues with these regulations best. “CAFE acts as a tax on larger, safer cars which is used to subsidize sales of smaller, higher-mpg, but less safe cars.”
Does that make any sense to anyone at all?
As President Trump takes California’s waiver away, he also has an opportunity to rectify our overall car manufacturing dysfunction.
By getting rid of the CAFE standards, the government could let the free market work, trust in capitalism and — most of all — get out of the way.
• Mark Meckler (@MarkMeckler) is president of the nonprofit Citizens for Self-Governance and a co-founder of the tea party movement.