California Won’t Buy From Automakers ‘on the Wrong Side of History’ in Emissions Fight With Trump
California will stop buying vehicles from the more than a dozen automakers including General Motors (GM), Fiat Chrysler and Toyota who sided with the Trump administration on the question of whether the state has the authority to set its own emissions standards, CalMatters first reported Friday.
The news came the same day that the state's Department of General Services announced a ban on cars powered only by gas. The department said that state agencies would stop buying gas-powered vehicles immediately and would cease sales from automakers who sided with Trump in January 2020.
"Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of CA's buying power," California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Saturday.
Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of CA’s buying power.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) November 16, 2019
CA will stop purchasing vehicles from carmakers that have refused to protect our air & chosen to follow the regressive ways of @realDonaldTrump. https://t.co/WpW2Eotaxl
California's decision is the latest in an escalating feud between the state and the Trump administration over vehicle fuel efficiency standards designed to fight the climate crisis.
The Obama administration had proposed fuel efficiency standards that would have required carmakers to achieve an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, removing around six billion tons of carbon dioxide over the vehicles' lifetimes, The New York Times explained. When the Trump administration proposed capping standards at around 37 miles per gallon, California and 13 other states said they would stick to the tougher standards, potentially splitting the U.S. auto market. This led Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America to strike a deal with California in July and agree to build fleets averaging 51 miles per gallon by model year 2026.
The Trump administration then officially revoked California's waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own tailpipe emissions standards in September. California and 22 other states sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the same month to block this decision, and this is when car companies like GM and Toyota filed a motion on behalf of the administration, supporting its case in the suit. California's new ban is a response to this motion.
"It certainly sends a strong message to the automakers that have come out on the other side of California in this litigation," Julia Stein, supervising attorney at the University of California Los Angeles Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic, told CalMatters. "It's taking steps to encourage automakers to be on what it views as the right side of that dispute."
It is unclear how much California's ban will impact the automakers, The New York Times reported.
Around 17 million cars and light trucks were sold in the U.S. last year, but the state of California only buys 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles annually. It currently owns 14,000 Fords, 10,000 vehicles made by GM, 4,000 by Fiat Chrysler and 1,200 by Toyota.
However, CalMatters reported that GM in particular stood to lose from the ban, since the state spent $27 million on GM-owned Chevrolet cars in 2018. GM was also the only impacted company to give a statement to Reuters and The New York Times through spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan:
"Removing vehicles like the Chevy Bolt and prohibiting GM and other manufacturers from consideration will reduce California's choices for affordable, American-made electric vehicles and limit its ability to reach its goal of minimizing the state government's carbon footprint, a goal that GM shares."
Between 2016 and 2018, California spent $58.6 million on GM cars, $55.8 million on Fiat Chrysler vehicles, $10.6 million on Toyotas and $9 million on Nissans, another company that sided with Trump, Reuters reported.
Both the ban on gas-powered cars and the ban on Trump-supporting automakers will have exceptions for public safety vehicles, according to CalMatters and The New York Times.
Also on Friday, California and 22 other states launched a parallel lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was part of the decision to revoke its waiver, according to CalMatters.
The final Trump administration emissions standards are expected within months, according to Reuters, and are anticipated to boost efficiency by around 1.5 percent a year. This is less of an increase than both the original Obama standards and the deal California struck with the four automakers in July.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.