How California Guards Its Power on Fuel Standards

There’s power in numbers.

Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

In 2012, the Barack Obama administration imposed regulatory standards that require significant increases in the fuel economy of automobiles.


Intent on reducing regulatory costs, the Donald Trump administration is rethinking those standards. But it’s encountering a major roadblock: California.

Because California is so large, and because more cars are sold there, by far, than in any other state, its regulators are in a strong position to drive the national market with respect to fuel economy — and to influence national regulators as well.

Under federal law, two different agencies regulate motor vehicles. The Department of Transportation issues fuel-economy standards. The Environmental Protection Agency controls air pollution from cars and trucks (notably, pollution includes greenhouse gases).