If the Los Angeles Auto Show is the litmus test of American carmakers' commitment to new, advanced mobility, you'd think we could look forward to a future that is electric and autonomous, clean and moving beyond congestion. But what was on display at this year's show was hypocrisy.
While the industry has been touting next-gen mobility here on the West Coast, its lobbying teams in Washington have pursued a backward-looking strategy, leading to a radical proposal from the Trump administration to roll back the nation's clean-car standards and revoke state authority to lead on reducing tailpipe emissions and advancing electric cars.
Automakers claim they are opposed to the proposed rollback, but our analysis of comments by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers shows their proposal could result in even more pollution than the administration's preferred rollback scenario. Not all automakers stand together, but even a less harmful proposal from Honda would still significantly erode the benefits of the standards currently in place.
The result of a rollback will be a U.S. auto market that is grossly out of step with global trends, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of good manufacturing jobs across the country; dirtier, more fuel-hungry cars that are more expensive to drive; and more climate warming emissions.
I was at AutoMobility LA, the curtain raiser to the L.A. Auto Show, to see how automakers are squaring these facts with a California audience. It's a delicate tightrope to walk, especially here, where climate change is not a future problem. It's here, now — and we cannot afford to postpone the inevitable shift to electric vehicles.
Major automotive markets across the globe already understand this. Countries such as Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands and Norway are committing to 100 percent electric or low-emission car sales by 2030. And major cities such as London; Barcelona, Spain; Brussels; Cape Town, South Africa; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Oslo, Norway; plan to ban the internal combustion engine altogether.
It's hypocritical that automakers are trying to communicate to market investors that they can compete in these more stringent markets but are claiming they need weaker standards here at home. The last time the U.S. was severely out of step with global clean-car trends was in 2008, before the current standards were adopted. When fuel prices spiked, American automakers were caught flat-footed with fleets of gas-guzzling vehicles they couldn't sell. Jobs and market share were lost, automakers were bailed out and here we are again.
Working with Synapse Energy Economics Inc., we ran economic modeling scenarios assuming the administration freezes federal clean-car standards at 2020 levels and undermines state authority to set more stringent emission and electric car standards. We found this rollback would kill 60,000 jobs across the economy, reduce gross domestic product by $8 billion and increase consumer spending on gasoline by about $20 billion in 2025, the point at which the current standards would have been fully implemented.
Clean-car standards are keeping our auto industry competitive and at the cutting edge of innovation. We cannot afford to slow down or go backward. Climate change, the economy and jobs all depend on deep cuts to emissions, achieved through both improvements to gasoline-powered vehicles and a shift to electrification.