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California Reaches Deal With Automakers To Produce Fuel-Efficient Cars

NOEL KING, HOST:

Some of the biggest car companies have struck a deal with the state of California to make cars and trucks more fuel efficient. Now this is pushback to a plan from the Trump administration to unwind one of President Obama's rules to address climate change, and it took weeks of secret negotiations to get this deal done. Craig Miller of member station KQED has the story.

CRAIG MILLER, BYLINE: Just as the EPA was about to roll out its plan to weaken rules for tailpipe emissions, its perennial nemesis, California, says carmakers are lining up on its side. Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen have agreed to build their cars to ever tightening fuel economy standards through the 2026 model year. The Trump plan is to freeze those standards at 2020 levels.

Mary Nichols is California's top air regulator. She negotiated the deal.

MARY NICHOLS: We will continue on the path that we're on knowing that we'll now be able to account four companies, and perhaps more, not to support what the administration is proposing to do.

MILLER: All sides say they want a single national standard that carmakers can build to. But some industry giants like Toyota are staying on the sidelines for now. California Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters in a conference call that he thinks more will step up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAVIN NEWSOM: We continue to have conversations privately with a number of the other manufacturers, and I continue to be hopeful.

MILLER: So far, the administration has been dismissive. An EPA spokesman calls it a PR stunt. But if the four companies become a stampede, Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein says it could tip the scale.

SEVERIN BORENSTEIN: The Trump administration is not going to do anything to help, of course. But it is possible that if all of the vehicle manufacturers say this is OK, this works for us, that the Trump administration will just move on to other things.

MILLER: The White House is still expected to press for the weaker economy standards and to try to revoke the long-standing authority that California has had to make its own tougher rules, rules it will need to meet some of the nation's most ambitious climate goals. For NPR News, I'm Craig Miller.

(SOUNDBITE OF LRKR'S "KEEP ON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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