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Tribune Editorial: Utah to help California meet its fuel efficiency standards



Utah politicians like three things.

business. Ask the Federal Government. Not California.

Here's a situation where two out of three are not bad.

It is a situation where Utah should insist with the automotive industry, with California, and against the government in Washington, by contradicting the recent efforts to stop the march to clearer cars in the United States.

The State of California has the power to set fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles that are stricter than national requirements under the Clean Air Act of 1

970. It has gained this power because it is California and because this state has long suffered the most from the harmful smog caused by car emissions.

It was a provision that was technically significant only in California. But in practical terms, it was also important in other places, like in Utah, where California is such a big market for cars, that every standard it sets can become the standard for the entire nation.

Under the Obama administration, agreements have been made to gradually increase the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for the entire country to 54 miles per gallon by the model year 2025. Automakers and the United Auto Workers supported the agreement. They liked to have predictable standards for the next few years. They liked the impetus to meet the increasing fuel efficiency of cars demanded and manufactured by other countries. And they realized that President Obama's auto industry bailout in 2009 put some concerns on this president.

Now we have another president, one who has no other business than to undo everything his predecessor has done. He recently announced that the CAFE federal standards set by Obama and accepted by the automakers would be 37 mpg, the target set for 2021. For the entire nation. Including California.

Not only that, but also the government announced it would lift the CAFE waiver in California and initiate an antitrust investigation against four of the world's largest automakers – Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen – who had cut a side deal with California to continue to achieve higher standards.

Utah should embrace the cause of California.

For one, Utah likes it when the federal government grants states exceptions. This is what our government has been aiming at in its plan and has lost the kind of Medicaid extension created by the Federal Act on Affordable Care and called for by voters when they adopted Proposition 3 last year. However, California's authority to impose stricter rules is not an administrative option. It is written down in a law of the congress.

Using federal antitrust laws to tell companies that they can not work together to invent and produce things that people really need is neither business-friendly nor environmentally friendly. In addition, higher fuel efficiency standards, whether set for the nation or suspended from California, are an integral part of the success that Utah has had in tackling the serious air quality problems that plague the state in general and the Wasatch Front in particular.

Rather than providing assistance and comfort to Texas and several other states killing Obamacare and denouncing health insurance to millions of Americans, Utah's Attorney General, Sean Reyes, was to hand in one of his California court air force fighting friends.

This time, Utah would be on the right side of one of those fights.


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