Inhofe: California is Dictating to Feds on Auto Fuel Efficiency

The senior Republican on the Senate environment panel has criticized the House transportation bill for strengthening federal involvement at the expense of states -- but when it comes to last year's agreement to raise national fuel-efficiency standards, Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK) is making the opposite argument, accusing the White House of letting one state dictate auto policy.

091109_inhofe_boxer_ap_297.jpgSen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), at left, with environment panel chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Photo: Politico)
Inhofe's office warned in a Friday release that California, the home state of environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D), would continue to ratchet up fuel-efficiency floors for the U.S. auto fleet during talks on how to extend the White House pact beyond 2016. From Inhofe's weekly newsletter:

The problem is California, which sees this deal as a spring board to tougher standards after 2017. California believes it has the authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own GHG standards - and it wants to make them tougher than what the feds have proposed. This could create the very patchwork the autos want to avoid. Or it could force yet another deal after 2017 in which the Golden State reigns supreme. ...

We see great merit in reducing dependence on foreign oil and promoting automotive innovation and technology. But we also see, and wish to thwart, the economic bomb dropping after 2017, as California seeks to impose its automotive vision on the entire nation. ...

Inhofe's depiction of a national fuel-efficiency (or CAFE) standard driven by California is more than a one-shot rhetorical volley. The auto industry, having backed the White House in fighting congressional efforts to limit federal authority on emissions, is already looking to 2017 and the next round of negotiations over CAFE policy.

Consumer groups have reported that last year's agreement to raise CAFE standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 could have imposed even stronger emissions limits while lowering gas bills for drivers and overall public health costs.

But Inhofe's fiery denunciation of that CAFE rule -- which he depicts as lacking a "legal basis" and being "a launching pad to realize California's green vision writ large" -- portends a stronger push to weaken the terms of the administration's sequel on fuel standards. Stay tuned ...