Last week, a battle between California and the EPA came to a head when the state filed a lawsuit against the federal agency. The state, along with 16 other states, opposes an EPA move to walk back emissions standards that requires cars to continue getting better fuel economy after 2021.
We'd like to have our readers weigh in on our weekly Twitter poll, to see where they think standards should be set.
California had signed onto the national standards in a 2009 effort coordinated with the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has statutory authority over fuel economy.
Until now, federal regulations have had to accommodate the state, because California has special status to set tighter emissions standards than the federal government. It receives that dispensation because the state set its own standards before the Clean Air Act was passed Dec. 31, 1970. Due to its geographical position and its topography, the Los Angeles basin has smog problems more severe than most of the nation.
The EPA got involved partially because it sets size classes for cars on which fuel economy standards are based, and partly because the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that the EPA must regulate. Since there is no way to reduce CO2 emissions from internal combustion cars except to reduce fuel consumption, that effectively gave the EPA a say in fuel economy as well.
Under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency said it planned to reverse a decision to ratchet up fuel economy standards through 2025 and that it would legally circumvent California's permission to set tighter emissions standards for CO2.
Sometimes the California laws can result in excellent plug-in vehicles being sold only in the state or only in states that agree to follow California's standards. Quite a few are not sold anywhere else.
That led us to ask whether Green Car Reports readers support California having its own separate emissions mandate, which formed the basis of our Twitter poll for last week, when we asked: Should California be able to set its own emissions standards?
Should CA be able to set its own emissions standards?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) April 30, 2018
The vast majority of our Twitter followers who took the poll said they did, an overwhelming 91 percent.
Tiny percentages—rounding to one each—agreed that the system should work more or less as it does, with the state requiring EPA permission to set its own standards, or that the state should set quotas for zero emissions vehicles, as it does, but perhaps not get involved in emissions standards for other types of vehicles.
Another 7 percent rejected the idea of California setting its own standards entirely, apparently favoring a top-down approach from Washington DC.
What the poll didn't capture is what percentage of that 91 percent of respondents who support the separate California standard did so because they support the cleaner air targets that California sets, or because the support the right of states to set their own standards.
Given the demographics of Green Car Reports' followers, it seems likely that they're motivated mostly to encourage as many sales of clean (or cleaner) cars as possible. As usual, that and a low sample size make our Twitter polls far less than nationally representative. It doesn't make them any less interesting.