President Donald Trump was in Michigan yesterday, visiting the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run in Ypsilanti.
While there, he announced changes to fuel economy and emissions standards that some worry will be an “environmental apocalypse,” said Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.
Howes joined Stateside to discuss his latest column in the Detroit News, "Revived fuel-economy review acknowledges reality."
He said those environmental worries are overblown.
The “roll back” of standards that environmentalists and others are worried about isn’t even really a roll back, Howes said.
Instead, Trump is reinstating a review process that President Obama and the automakers agreed to in 2011. This process asked automakers and officials to take market factors into account when negotiating standards, factors like trends towards larger vehicles or changes in global gas prices.
From a business point of view, this allows companies to push for regulatory benchmarks that they feel they can actually achieve. But at the end of the Obama administration, the government felt that this “mid-cycle review” process was unnecessary, because the auto industry, in their view, was progressing steadily.
By reinstating the mid-cycle review process, President Trump is not scrapping regulations, just changing the amount of flexibility that companies have to meet them.
Howes said it is important for critics to understand that automakers are already working towards more environmentally friendly transportation.
“This is not the auto industry of the 1960s,” he said. “These are not the people that said we can’t put catalytic converters on cars because it will put us out of business, we can’t put seatbelts on cars because it will put us out of business. That is not the kind of people that are running these companies."
Because the modern auto industry is focused on technology, electrification, and efficiency, it's better equipped than its predecessors to make realistic progress on environmental standards.
Automakers just want to look at the market as it actually is, rather than try to guess what gas prices or purchasing trends will look like in 2025. They know, Howes said, that it’s not a binary choice between profit and planet: companies have to do both.
Hear more from Daniel Howes about the future of environmental regulations for car makers in our interview above.
Daniel Howes is a columnist with The Detroit News. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.