Stewart: Until this past Thursday, U.S. automakers were preparing to design vehicles that would average 50 miles per gallon by the year 2025. The standard was set by Obama-era regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But now, the E.P.A. And the national highway traffic safety administration have announced a proposal to roll back the requirements. Opposition is coming not only from environmental groups but from states and, surprisingly, from some automakers themselves. Timothy Puko of the Wall Street Journal joins us now from Washington, D.C., for more. Tim, so, this proposal has a correlation... suggests a correlation between the fuel efficiency, the cost of the vehicle and the safety of the vehicle. What does this proposal allege?
Timothy Puko: Well, the trump administration is saying that if you put standards on fuel efficiency that are too high, it's gonna make cars that are too expensive, and people aren't going to buy them. And if they don't buy the newest, safest cars, then they don't have the best fuel efficiency and they don't have the best safety standards. They're essentially saying that the estimates for, you know, air quality, carbon emission improvements that the Obama administration predicted, forecast, aren't anything to come true because people aren't going to buy the types of cars they need to buy to make it happen.
Stewart: Who lobbied the administration for this?
Timothy Puko: Well, in the beginning, the automakers did. There was a vast change in consumer preference. Once oil prices fell and then gasoline prices fell, people were buying more trucks and more S.U.V.S again, and the automakers very, you know, forcefully, very openly said, you know, we don't think we're going to meet these mandates. In fact, in the past year, they fell a little bit short of what the Obama-era requirements mandated for them. So, they asked basically for some relief. They got a little bit more than they bargained for.
Stewart: You wrote in your piece that California had a de facto role as an auto regulator for the nation, and California is pushing back against this hard. Explain why California is the de facto auto regulator and how it's pushing back?
Timothy Puko: So, California has been a leader for decades in terms of environmental standards, clean air regulations. They were doing it even before the federal government passed the clean air act. They worked in collaboration with the Obama administration to set these standards. There are a dozen other states that also follow those rules, and that covers about a third of the country's whole auto market. So, effectively, they're the ones with the power because the auto industry doesn't want to build cars for two different standards. Logistically, it would be very difficult. You know, it's very costly. It can be confusing. And this is an industry that spends billions and billions on research and development and on logistics. And so, if California and the federal government don't agree, it's a big problem for the automakers. That's the situation that we've gotten into now. California has this power. They want to keep the rules that have been in place since 2012. But the trump administration doesn't agree. They want to get rid of them. And to do that, they'll have to fight the power that California has. They've put out in this proposal that they have the authority to effectively override or eliminate California’s waiver, California’s authority. California certainly doesn't agree. That's why this is probably going to court. And pretty much everyone I’ve talked to expects that if it does, it will go all the way to the supreme court.
Stewart: This is to be continued. Tim Puko with the Wall Street Journal. Thanks so much.
Tim Puko: Thank you.