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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.

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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).

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