CA vs. the Rest of America

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A huge battle is brewing between the state of California and the rest of America over who gets to decree national fuel economy standards. (Which have morphed into something other than just fuel economy standards.)

It’d be nice if car buyers got to decide, via their purchasing decisions – but that’s off the table.

On the upside, President Trump walked back the had-been-pending federal fatwa that would have required all new cars to average 50-plus MPG by 2025 – citing compliance costs and even (heresy!) questioning whether the government has any business fatwa’ing fuel efficiency requirements in the first place.

California responded with foot-stomping threats to issue its own counter-fatwa, which would impose the 50-plus MPG mandatory minimum on all new cars sold within its boundaries.

If it does so, it would have the effect of making California the boss of the rest of us – because the car industry can no longer afford to build one set of cars for California and another for the rest of the country.

Thus, what a handful of bureaucrats in the CA apparat decree threatens to become binding on the whole country.

California has had its own – much stricter – emissions standards since the ’70s, when a bureaucracy called the California Air Resources Board (CARB) came into being.

Initially, the car industry responded to this by building “California” and “49 state” cars. The “California cars” were built for California specifically and had even more emissions control rigmarole than “49 state” cars – and sometimes, less performance – or less of other things.

For example, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Chevy was only able to sell Corvettes with the smaller 5.0 liter engine automatic transmissions in CA.

Buyers in the rest of the country could still get a Corvette with the larger 5.7 liter V8 and a manual transmission.

The problem is obvious.

Building two versions of the same car gets into money. The car companies could theoretically tell CA (and CARB) to bugger off and just stop selling cars in CA. But CA is a huge market – and over the past several years, other states have leashed themselves to CA’s stricter-than-federal fatwas.

And so rather than tell CA to bugger off – as it ought to have done 30 years ago –  the car industry has decided it is better to clap loudest for Stalin (for those who get the reference) and has sided with CA on this business. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – the lobbying entity which represents most of the majors, including GM Ford, Toyota, Mazda, VW/Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – issued a statement earlier this year urging Trump to “reach an agreement” with CA that amounts to caving in to CA’s foot-stomping.

What’s really interesting, though, is that this isn’t just a power grab.

It is a semantics grab.

Which will lead, ultimately, to a car grab.

CARB has had power to regulate emissions with the state of California since the ’70s. But not fuel economy. That has always been a federal fief.

Fuel economy has also never been considered – until recently – an emissions issue. Chiefly because it isn’t. Not by any historical or even chemical standard.

“Emissions” used to refer, in regulatory lingo (at both the federal and state level) specifically and exclusively to things harmful to air quality – i.e., things which caused or contributed to smog or acid rain, for instance – or which were harmful to human physiology. These things included byproducts of incomplete combustion, fuel vapors, oxides of nitrogen, particulates – and so on.

“Emissions” – in terms of what was subject to regulation on that basis – never included carbon dioxide – for the entirely sound reason that C02 plays no role whatsoever in smog formation, doesn’t cause acid rain and presents no threat to anyone’s physiology.

Somehow – it’s not clear exactly when this happened – regulatory lingo began to subtly and then very aggressively shift. Fuel economy began to be spoken of in terms synonymous with emissions – and carbon dioxide suddenly morphed from a harmless, inert gas into an “emission” and thus, very much subject to regulation.

The media began to say the same words, repetition serving as its own Duck-speak argument. The car industry quacked in, too – buying the lingo which will eventually seal its doom.

Doom – because there is no way to “clean” (chemically scrub) these “emissions.” The only thing that can be done to curb or even reduce them is to burn less gas. Which ultimately means smaller – or fewer cars.

Or mostly electric cars – which is a problem because most people can’t afford them. Leaving aside the functional problems.

At any rate, you now know the real reason for the sudden mania displayed by the car companies to get as many electric cars in the pipeline as possible. EVs are considered by the regulatory apparat to be “zero emissions” – even though their manufacture and use results in plenty of carbon dioxide “emissions.”

And you also know the reason for the car industry’s Stalin-clapping in favor of CA and CARB. They have invested heavily in EVs, even if there’s no real market for them.

If Trump breaks CA’s regulatory power – if there is no national 50-plus-MPG fatwa, no “zero emissions” car quotas – it will mean not just a lot of loss-eating, it could mean the loss of several car companies, who can’t afford to eat the losses.

Which is why they are so eager for the rest of the country to eat them.

. . .

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Why can’t Calfornia be Geo-Fenced? Since cars are going to have GPSs anyway why not have, for example, a class of vehicle that would only be operable only in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Then California and Idaho could have their own set of vehicle standards, and not have to worry about Montanans selling their giant off road vehicles in LA.Clover

    • Hi George,

      How about individual people being left free to buy whatever type of vehicle best suits their needs and wants – the car companies free to meet that natural demand – absent the coercive collectivism of government?

  2. The same issue came up in 2015 over the size of chicken cages. It was headed toward the US Supreme Court, but the SC decided not to bother taking it up. California said that any eggs sold in the state had to be from chickens raised in cages much bigger than the industry standard. Violation of the fed’s jurisdiction over interstate commerce was the legal issue. The mileage standards are much more important nationally, so maybe the SC will take the case over CAFE standards.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2015/05/22/californias-cross-border-laws-may-be-reined/#d286859356e5 describes California playing chicken with the rest of the country.

  3. I have just one question, not necessarily designed to be answered: If CARB has been working on improving CA’s air quality since 1970, that’s been 48 years of effort. How’s it working?

    If they have devoted 48 years–that’s two generations of mankind–to solving this problem, has the air gotten any cleaner? They consider themselves to be “master planners,” in the sense of being our masters and our planners, but they can’t get the problem solved. So they look to other non-problems (like carbon dioxide and water vapor) as their regulatory salvation.

    One person from California who got things right was Ronald Reagan, when he said, “There’s nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.”

    But 48 years of trying, and saying that the problem isn’t getting any better?

    That shows me that we are looking at scientific incompetence, the two words that describe the whole of government-based environmental research science.

    As for the other states that have followed them into the loony bin: What makes them think they would get better results?

    Yes, I know; it’s all about control by self-aggrandizing elites.

    • The issue the bureaucrats have is the problem has been solved. When I was in LA not all that long ago, maybe close to two years ago now, the air in downtown LA was perceptibly no worse than downtown Chicago. Because the problem has been solved it’s been about making smaller and smaller issues into problems and creating problems from things that aren’t problems. If they didn’t they would not only not be able to grow their departments but would have to shrink them.

      Fewer government salaries and pensions. That’s what it is ultimately about even the dogooderism doesn’t rise to the level of importance of the money. It’s not scientific incompetence it’s outright fraud. The taxpayer is being defrauded by the scientific community for the same reason. Salaries. A way to make a very good living.

      Tony Heller comes to climate science from an engineering background and personal interest. The later to much greater degree than myself, but the conclusion is the same. They are deliberately mishandling the data to serve their own personal interests. Tony has proven it undeniably. But ultimately it’s an emotional thing and since people won’t admit they were conned it doesn’t matter how much factual information is presented. It doesn’t matter how much anyone tries to teach people data analysis.

      It’s like with this VW thing. I kept showing people standards before and after “cheating” and how there is nothing fundamentally dirty about the “cheating” cars. It’s a fractional change in the standards already well into the diminishing returns. It means nothing in a practical sense. It might if the USA had a huge diesel passenger car market and there millions of these things in every city but there just isn’t. It doesn’t matter except to the bureaucrats. The excess NOx of a few even several thousand diesel VWs one standard behind in a city like Chicago means nothing.

      Furthermore, the disregard for the environment and the real issue is seen in the settlement with the government. The VWs that can’t be retrofitted are to be -destroyed- and it is not allowed for them to be exported to some 3rd world country and sold. Keep in mind these cars are cleaner than whatever ancient run down POS cars a lot of people are driving in poorer countries where a modern VW for cheap would be something extremely useful. No, they must be destroyed and with that the materials and energy put into their construction. minus what comes back in recycling which is still well into the net negative.

      If they cared about the environment VW should have been allowed to export the cars. A lot of people could have made good use of them.

      • Nice summary.

        Indeed those cars would make very nice replacements for the Indian taxis.
        I think they are still using Hindustan Ambassador diesels and the last footage I saw from there showed visible particulate from almost every exhaust. Even 1985 Rabbit diesels would be an improvement so the new ‘cheaters’ would be cleaning the air even without the ‘fix’.

      • I agree; the forced throw-away of all those perfectly fine diesel-powered VW Jettas is mass waste on a grand scale. If I had one–and I almost bought one when they were still legal–I would have resisted turning it in. My state doesn’t have emissions testing, and the air around is quite clean–I live in rural Oklahoma when I’m in the States–I would have kept it until they took it from my cold, dead hands, or until it broke down, which would likely be 40 years from now.

        I would make one change in the post, though: The bureaucrat isn’t concerned about growing his fiefdom. Instead, he is concerned about saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety above all else. I offer as an example, John Nestor, former head of the Foolish Drug Addicts, or Federal Death Authority, or as the government slave would prefer, the Food and Drug Administration. Eric wrote about him a few months ago, I believe. In his commute, he used to get in the left lane of the Washington Beltway and drive at exactly the speed limit, in spite of all the horns blown at him. His excuse was that no one died when he was driving at that speed. He also, as FDA Administrator, refused to allow any new drugs to be approved, because he feared someone MIGHT die from one of them.

  4. Where are our Congress in all of this? THEY need to grow up and enforce the Interstate Commerce Clause in this, and a few hundred other, areas.

    That states that it is the task of Congress to “make regular” trade between the states. In other words, make sure it happens unfettered. No state can impose a tariff upon goods entering from another, no state can impose more severe restrictions on any good or service than other states do. In other words, if a guy in Navada or texas or Arkansas can buy and drive a car made to given specs, California, Wasnington, Oregon, cannot restrict that car from entering their states tor use there. As it stands, if I live in California or Washington (or some others) and buy a used car originally sold in Kansas or Missouri with Fed standards, I can NOT bring it into California or Washington and register it. They can, and will, and do, deny me the use of that personal property within their states.

    A clear violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause…. WHY do not Congress get up in their faces on this?

    California do the same thing with firearms, It it ain’t on their “approved” list (which shrinks every year) I cannot buy it in California. Small engines in stationary and utility equipment, same story.

  5. The whole thing will become academic after the Great Correction begins.
    Those who have no money or credit to buy a new high-mileage car won’t.

  6. Kali wants to drag the whole nation into the cesspool they are creating for themselves.

    Not sure of the ultimate outcome. But I doubt that it will end well.

  7. Trump saved the automakers by lowering it. He should have let the wrecking ball hit and left the fatwa standard at 50mpg, the market would have kicked in more so than now and we’d all be bailing out the Big 3. No one could afford the cards, auto debt at all time high, used car prices rising to meet demand. Trifecta would have done sweet ol Marry Barra in. Again, Trump saved the auto industry and bought it some time, he should have let them die.

    • Morning, Brazos!

      That argument is fairly compelling… it’s similar in theme to the argument I’ve made in re the VW “cheating” thing. VW should have assumed the Mini Me pose and flipped Uncle the bird… let the chips fall where they may.

      The real question – as yet unanswered – is just what percentage of the population would respond favorably.

      Or, not.

  8. I don’t understand why this is a big deal? CA wants 50 mpg cars then sell them the cars they want. Can they even make enough car models that get that mpg? If the nation wants regular cars well will buy them. Sell just prius plug ins to CA and let them be happy.

    What does a national mandate have to do with it? Either they can make the cars or they can’t, either they cost too much or they don’t.

    I don’t understand.

    • Hi Todd,

      I agree with you. Just sell “CA compliant” cars in CA and sell the rest outside of CA.

      The problem is that other state governments – not just CA’s – are demanding the 50 MPG standard. And the car industry has caved in to this pressure and is on their side.

      And it’s not just MPGs at issue. The states (and feds) and the car industry have bought into the “greenhouse gas” business. That one will prove to be The End of everything.

  9. Hope all those EV clown cars offer a California off road suspension package. Because the 40 year old unmaintained local, state and interstate roads are crumbling fast.

  10. Since when does a state get to have power over the entire country? That’s not unlike a 5-year-old disciplining his parents or giving them a curfew.

  11. Yet another reason why California needs to be broken up into 3 or more states. A single state with the land mass of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, W. VA, North and South Carolina and Georgia, with a similarly sized population (39,536,653 for CA vs 45,403,318 for the above listed).

    The citizens of California are in favor of breaking it up. The rest of the country is in favor of breaking it up. The only ones who like it the way it is are the Democrats because they know they have the whole place to themselves. The only reason that much land was allocated for the state in the first place was because of the gold rush. But the gold’s all gone and you can put a software company anywhere.

    • Some citizens, such as myself, have voted to break it up, but the vast majority wouldn’t think of it, because bigger is better when it comes to government!

      Curse you CA; politically insane, economically bountiful with opportunity. I deal with the political insanity in order to make a good living, but the rewards of working here are now just barely offsetting the fascism I have to deal with on a daily basis.

      • Hi OP,

        I didn’t realize you lived out there; my sister does, too. It’s such a beautiful state … ruined by the same people who are ruining the rest of the country. It’s like getting fleas in your otherwise nice house. But it’s much easier to get rid of the fleas…

      • The middle class is leaving Commiefornia as are businesses including Toyota which moved to Texas.
        Very soon there will be only two classes of people living there: the wealthy elite left and the poor. There will be no middle class to tax and tax and tax and tax….
        They are moving to Texas, Arizona, nevada, Oregon, even Idaho, although I don’t know what the hell Idaho has to offer except mountains and scenery but if you’re prepper and looking for seclusion, that’s one state that will provide it.
        Ever since Gov. Moonbeam took office and along with the aid of progressive liberals who dominate Commiefornia’s politics, the state has been going down hill.
        It now has the worst poverty. Tent cities everywhere and you can’t walk downtown SanFran without stepping into what some junkie left from his or her behind.
        I once thought about moving out there….just once.
        Staying in Michigan.
        And don’t bring up Flint……we know who’s responsible for that disaster.

    • Not so sure. The way they’ve drawn the new tentative lines, each of the three new states of misery will have about the same percentage mix as the whole of it does now. What that means is that instead of ONE California, we’ll have THREE>…… SIX rotten senatrice like DieFie and Pugliugly instead of the mere twain as at present. THREE new battles every time they pull rank, or try to. Instead of the present one.

      It wouid be sort of like what happened on the coast of that state when the Russians colluded to eliinate starfish from the beaches….. they hacked them to pieces with swords, and let the pieces to die on the sand. What the dimwits didn’t know is that ANY piece of the starfish can, and will rebuild ALL of what was cut off……. so the silly iggeruunt Russkies merely multiplied the starfish population on those parts of the coast by about ten times. As they discovered a year later when they returned to seek their starfish free beaches……..

      Nah, leave the buggers alone. They’ll elect NewSore as king, let their highways contnue to fall apart, chase away the few remaining Makers still stuck there, and finally implode like we see in Venezuela. There won’t be enough tax money to continue to feed all the foreign invaders in their Sanctuary Cities…… and tey’ll move abroad into the rest of the state and plunder it.

      I used to know a family had a punk of a fifteen year old boy, who had enough of Dad, well, being DAD. HE moved out one morning. Took his few precious treasures in his backpack, his tiny money poke, nice sleeping bag, and headed off to make a name for himself. That night, as he jockeyed for position under one of the downtown bridges, he got beat up, all his stuff stolen, spent the night in the cold and wet.. and came slinking back home, tail betwixt legs, in the Ayem. He learned that life with Dad ain’t so bad after all, He rturned out to be apretty resposnible and sensible adult man. A slightly more humble one than the one hd left home for greener pastures.

      • Hi Tionico,

        I submit the problem is much deeper. The battle line is not CA vs. the rest of the country but authoritarian collectivism vs. the pockets that have not yet fully embraced it.

        The majority of the United States is already socialist and the majority of the American people already socialist. They merely bicker over which form it takes.

      • Well, if they’d just stay there that’d be fine by me. But they’re leaving and turning up in Colorado. And they’re bringing their ideas about government spending.

  12. Off topic… Comments on a couple of websites I like have all but disappeared because they use that disqus comment system and that system is censoring 90% (i estimate) of all comments. Plus you now have to log in with faceboot, ghoulgle, or fritter, apparently there’s no direct/separate login — so they can keep a profile on everyone. Nevermind the futube has been censoring so much they probly have empty hard drives now. Commie censorship has landed a full invasion force in America. People better start civics groups now, this takeover is getting out of control, who knows what they’ll do next.

    • You should give the episode titled “On the Internet” of the “Your Welcome with Micheal Malice” podcast a listen. This one fella had a program running on google search outcomes that exposed how incredibly bias they are, interesting stuff. Be well out there.

  13. As usual, government at various levels has screwed things up and as usual, business has curled up like a good little puppy in government’s lap. To add even more usualness to it all, the people will gladly fall in with California’s edicts. The latter point makes me wonder if Hamilton’s perhaps apocryphal eruption that “the people are a beast” isn’t the truth.

    • One problem with libertarian thinking is that you actually have to think. Meaning you need to have a reasonably high IQ, at least in the middle of the curve. But 1/2 the population has a “below average” IQ, and some are really lacking the ability to understand reason and logic. But everyone gets to vote.

      But because what I just wrote is somehow racist we can’t talk about IQ.

      • “Think of how stupid the average person is, then realize half of them are stupider than that.”
        – George Carlin

        Clovers, bureaucrats, Democrats… Call them what you will. They are all Stalin’s Chikinz. They cannot exist without the suffocating control and regular beatings graciously offered by GOV – at enormous cost to rest (and dwindling numbers) of us. But who cares? There’s a new happy pill out, goes great with the new boner pills, and a new season of sportsball is on the telescreen.

  14. California Leftists can go screw themselves. That goes for all the other Left-wing SJW maggots anywhere else for that matter. Newsflash! “Just because you were born on third base, doesn’t mean you hit a triple”.

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