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17 of World’s Largest Car Makers Ask Trump for Compromise on Plan to Weaken Fuel Efficiency Standards

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Ford F150 trucks go through the customer acceptance line at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant on Sept. 27, 2018 in Dearborn, Michigan. Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Seventeen of the world's largest automakers want President Donald Trump to find a compromise with California on his plan to weaken Obama-era tailpipe emissions standards, The New York Times reported.



In a letter sent to Trump on Thursday, car companies including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and BMW asked the administration to return to the negotiating table so as to avoid "an extended period of litigation and instability." They worried the current plans would hurt their profits.

Automakers had initially sought a weakening of the standards put in place by former President Barack Obama to address the climate crisis. The standards would have set a fuel efficiency target of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. But the Trump administration draft plan would freeze mileage standards at around 37 miles per gallon and revoke California's waiver to set its own standards under the Clean Air Act, all but guaranteeing that California and the 13 other states that have adopted its tougher standards would sue. Car makers are then worried about having to design cars for two separate U.S. markets.

"What works best for consumers, communities, and the millions of U.S. employees that work in the auto industry is one national standard that is practical, achievable, and consistent across the 50 states," the companies wrote, according to the Detroit Free Press. "In addition, our customers expect continuous improvements in safety, efficiency, and capability. For these reasons, we support a unified standard that both achieves year-over-year improvements in fuel economy and facilitates the adoption of vehicles with alternative powertrains."

Negotiations between California and the administration on a national standard broke down in February, and the final Trump fuel efficiency plan is due this summer.

"Our thinking is, the rule is still being finalized, there is still time to develop a final rule that is good for consumers, policymakers and automakers," Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Vice President Gloria Bergquist told The New York Times.

Fiat Chrysler was the only of the Big Three U.S. car companies not to sign the letter. Other companies who did sign included Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Volvo and Volkswagen.

Some questioned the timing of the automakers' intervention.

"The reality was if they had sent these letters months ago, there might have been a possibility of doing something," Safe Climate Campaign of the Center for Auto Safety Director Dan Becker told the Los Angeles Times. "But doing it at the last minute when they know the administration is poised to issue this rule any week now … it's just so they can say to people who object: 'Oh, we were opposed, we weren't in Trump's pocket.'"

Auto industry analyst Jeremy Acevedo, on the other hand, saw the letter as an admission from car companies that they "bit off more than they could chew" when they asked for the Obama-era standards to be weakened.

"This letter in some ways represents ceding defeat to California and the CARB states, but it proves how desperate automakers are to avoid having two different fuel economy standards," he told the Detroit Free Press. "While automakers may not want to meet these aggressive targets, at least it's something they can plan for, as opposed to years of uncertainty waiting out a lengthy court battle."

The automakers also sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, encouraging him to work with the Trump administration to develop a standard "midway" between the Obama-era rules and the proposed rollbacks.

But Newsom told The New York Times he is not interested in finding a "midway" position.

"A rollback of auto emissions standards is bad for the climate and bad for the economy," Newsom wrote in an email. "I applaud the automakers for saying as much in their letter today to the President. We should keep working towards one national standard — one that doesn't backtrack on the progress states like California have made."

If the Trump rollbacks go through, they would increase U.S. gas consumption by some 500,000 barrels a day, raising greenhouse gas emissions, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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