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In any normal administration, the myriad scandals surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt—especially the cozy deal he struck with a fossil fuel lobbyist for a DC condo—would have led to his ouster. Indeed, the Trump administration has considered giving Pruitt the well-deserved boot, though more for being a headache than being an utterly corrupt scoundrel totally in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. But what’s kept him in office is that the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency has absolutely zero commitment to actually protecting the environment, and that’s just the way Trump wants it. The latest example: yesterday, for no good reason at all, Pruitt’s EPA announced that it would roll back Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards and seek to override California’s ability to enact its own standards. What global warming?

  • From Reuters: “The standards called for roughly doubling by 2025 the average fuel efficiency of new vehicles sold in the United States to about 50 miles (80 km) per gallon. Proponents said they could help spur innovation in clean technologies. California has long been allowed by an EPA waiver to impose stricter standards than Washington does on vehicle emissions of some pollutants. And 12 other states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, follow California’s lead on cleaner cars. That has set up a battle on vehicle efficiency between California, the most populous U.S. state and a massive car market, and the administration of President Donald Trump. Pruitt is a big proponent of states’ rights to regulate themselves, but opposes California’s push for greener cars. California’s waiver to impose its own efficiency standards is being re-examined, the EPA said.”
  • He’s doing so at the behest of the car industry: “Auto industry executives have not publicly sought specific reductions in the requirements negotiated with the Obama administration in 2011 as part of a bailout deal. But they have urged Pruitt and Trump to revise the Obama standards so it becomes easier and less costly to meet complex targets, which vary depending on the size of vehicles and whether they are classified as cars or trucks. Automakers also want to avoid a patchwork of rules that would add costs to engine manufacturing. ‘The best way to achieve our collective goals is under a single national program that provides an aggressive but achievable pathway, a variety of compliance tools, and factors in the role of customers,’ said John Bozzella, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Global Automakers.”
  • “Environmentalists decried Pruitt’s decision, saying stricter standards would slash emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Proponents of the corporate average fuel economy standards, or CAFE, say they have led to big gains in auto technology and that relaxing them could eventually hurt sales of U.S. cars in European and Asian countries that are moving toward mandates for electric cars. It would ‘take America backward by jeopardizing successful safeguards that are working to clean our air, save drivers money at the pump, and drive technological innovation that creates jobs,’ said Luke Tonachel, a clean vehicles advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Would the CAFE standards have put a hardship on the automobile industry? Maybe a little. But they were a recognition at least of the scope of the problem that climate change presents. And they would likely have spurred new clean energy advances that eventually led to a reduction of Americans’ carbon footprint, which is something our planet desperately needs. Except Scott Pruitt doesn’t believe in anthropogenic global warming, because he’s a puppet of big oil and industry, and he wants to suck up to Donald Trump—who despises all things Obama—so that he can maybe be attorney general one day. If this were just a move to simplify a complex regulatory regime, that would be one thing. But it’s not. It’s another piece of a head-in-sand response to the climate crisis, the spineless deference to industry avarice that could well make the planet uninhabitable.