The Trump administration is currently attempting to stop California from setting its own pollution standards for automobiles. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has proposedfreezing federal fuel economy standards for 10 years (a measure so extreme that even automakers oppose it), but as things stand, California has a waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows it to opt out of federal standards and implement its own vehicle standards. Other states are also allowed to opt for California’s standards if they so choose, which 12 states and Washington, DC, have done.
If Trump sets absurdly lax standards, more states are likely to defect to California’s. So the EPA has set out to deny the state its waiver. There’s going to be a whole huge legal fight over it.
These aren’t just any standards, and this isn’t just any fight. Trump’s EPA is going after California because of the state’s long and, to this administration, dangerous history of dragging the nation forward on clean energy and energy efficiency — precisely by using ambitious performance standards.
California boosters often note that the state has become more energy-efficient than the rest of the US, which has helped keep its residents’ energy bills low even as the per-unit cost of energy increases. Skeptics have said that the state is merely taking credit for the effects of a temperate climate and copious natural resources, including hydroelectric power.
Oddly, no one seems to have run the numbers on it, to figure out whether California really is a leader or if it’s just lucky. But now, in a report for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ralph Cavanagh, Peter Miller, and Charlie Komanoff gathered the official statistics, made the spreadsheet, and dug into the question of whether California really is doing something right.
The answer: yes. It is.
How California became far more energy-efficient than the rest of the country, by David Roberts, Vox, May 31, 2019.