The Trump administration announced a bold decision to scrap a key Obama-era environmental policy intended to blunt the force of climate change, and the reaction from Detroit carmakers was swift.
"We believe climate change is real and remain deeply committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our vehicles and our facilities," reads a statement from Ford Motor Co.
General Motors echoed the sentiment, announcing that GM "will not waver from our commitment to the environment."
Sadly, these reactions are not statements against news this week that the Trump administration is softening fuel economy standards. These statements were reactions to the administration's decision last year to leave the Paris climate accord.
When it came to this week's announcement that the EPA will roll back future fuel economy standards, carmakers took a more muted tone. Most notable is this blog post from Ford's chiefs in which they reaffirm the reality of climate change and tailpipe emissions contributions to it, and explicitly say they "are not asking for a rollback."
But why not a more forceful defense of a policy that experts say is a key plank of the nation's climate policy?
A pragmatist would say carmakers prefer the light-touch, nonbinding nature of the Paris agreement that would allow countries to set their own pace in addressing climate change. A cynic would say it was easier to be bold last year, when support for staying the Paris climate accord was broad, even reaching the halls of the White House. In comparison, fuel economy regulations are wonky and difficult to rally around.
Only the executives who run these companies can know their motivations. But if the corporate commitment to limiting greenhouse gases is real, then it's not enough to release a statement or a quote from a high-up executive.
We hope the carmakers stay committed to the shift to electrification, continue to articulate the economic and social benefits of stricter fuel economy standards and move forward swiftly with or without government support.
— Shiraz Ahmed