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The Shift Toward Clean Cars

Author: Coral Davenport

Source: The New York Times

Originally Published: February 3, 2021

How big automakers are abandoning resistance

New cars on a dock at the Port of Los Angeles in April.Credit...Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and several other big automakers said this week they would no longer try to block California from setting its own strict fuel-economy standards. The move signaled that the auto industry as a whole is now ready to work with President Biden on one of his main efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The decision by the companies had been widely expected, but was still significant: The shift may help the Biden administration move quickly to reinstate national fuel-efficiency standards that would control planet-warming auto pollution, this time with support from industry giants that fought such regulations for years.

The move also amounted to a U-turn for California’s influence on Washington policymaking. Former President Donald J. Trump had reversed Obama-era auto pollution rules that had been modeled after California’s state-level rules. He also withdrew the state’s authority to set its own rules. Now, Mr. Biden is expected to use California as a model for swiftly reinstating national rules.

Why it matters: Auto tailpipe emissions are the United States’ single largest source of greenhouse gas pollution.

What’s next: Mr. Biden wants to move fast. Gina McCarthy, the top White House climate adviser, has already held meetings with top executives from auto companies as she begins writing the new regulations. It’s expected that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department will jointly publish a notice of proposed rule-making — the first legal step in reinstating the Obama-era rules — by March or April.

The big picture: The president isn’t just planning to restore the environmental protections rolled back by his predecessor, he’s aiming to go much further. So far, he’s signed several executive orders. But, as I told Michael Barbaro on The Daily podcast this week, the real work is just beginning.

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