© 2022 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

California Doubles Down On Efforts To Slow Climate Change


President Trump has signed an executive order that directed the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. That comes just weeks after the EPA said it would review fuel standards for vehicles. With its own regulations, California is moving in a different direction. Responding to yesterday's order, Governor Jerry Brown said the state will step up its efforts to curb global warming. And he vowed to mobilize what he called a countermovement. Here's NPR's Sonari Glinton.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: The Trump administration has made it very, very clear that it wants to get rid of what it calls job-killing regulations. Let's take a listen to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt on the Sunday talk show, ABC's "This Week."


SCOTT PRUITT: It's clear that the past administration had a very anti-fossil fuel strategy - coal, natural gas and the rest. And so this was - this is a promise he's keeping to the American people to say that we can put people back to work and be pro-environment as well.

JOEL LEVIN: I can't imagine how this possibly saves jobs to be honest.

GLINTON: Joel Levin is the executive director of Plug In America. He says California has a special role. And the clean car industry has grown up here for a reason - California has the most cars and the dirtiest air.

LEVIN: I grew up in Los Angeles. And in the 1970s, the air was brown here. It was far worse than it is today. California has been very aggressive in their environmental goals, and they've been pretty successful with them.

GLINTON: Levin's group is a nonprofit that represents electric car drivers. He says rolling back fuel standards will not just hurt California's environment. Levin says there is an economic cost, especially in this state.

LEVIN: One interesting thing about electric vehicles is because it's a high-technology product, they're disproportionately built in the U.S. So if you look at most of the best-selling EVs, they're produced in the U.S. And so if you slow down sales of them, I don't see how that could possibly improve jobs.

GLINTON: One of the problems with electric cars and hybrids is that many Americans just aren't comfortable with the technology. These cars represent only about 3.5 percent of car sales, which has many worrying about the future of the electric car.

SUE REID: I'll say that what is coming out of Washington is really bleak and alarming.

GLINTON: Sue Reid is with Ceres, a group that invests in sustainability. She says despite the lack of enthusiasm from consumers, there is a real future for the electric car.

REID: The electric vehicles market and storage - they're not quite as far along as wind and solar, but they've got incredible momentum. The rest of the world has picked up on these technologies.

GLINTON: Momentum is a relative term here. Sales of alternative fuel vehicles are pretty static. But - this is important - hybrid sales, they've slowed. But electric car sales are actually growing. Their ranges are improving, and there are more places to plug them in. Reid says even if the EPA doesn't see the future of the electric car, because of a provision in the Clean Air Act, the state of California is granted a waiver. And that allows it to force car companies into action.

REID: California still - it has a waiver. And it has already established stronger standards for clean cars that 13 other states and D.C. are following. And there's absolutely no precedent or language in the law that would allow for that authority to be undone.

GLINTON: Now, while the EPA under Trump says tough fuel rules hurt jobs, California is pushing in the exact opposite direction. It's reaffirmed its commitment to the electric car, a pledge it shares with the European Union, Japan and China - if not with the Trump administration.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.