With Trump on his way out of power, GM has suddenly has a change of heart about its place in the fight against global warming.
General Motors has abandoned a Trump administration lawsuit seeking to deprive California of its right to set its own automotive emissions rules.
According to CNN, California has—for decades—been granted repeated federal waivers which allow the state to set its own air quality and emissions policies. California’s rules have, for the most part, been significantly more strict than those recommended or set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
CNN notes that several other states have also tried to emulate California’s approach.
So far, most automakers have played along, designing newer cars to meet California emission standards. However, the Trump administration announced in 2019 that it would revoke California’s waiver.
Nevertheless, several car manufacturers—including Ford, BMW, Honda, and Volkswagen—had already concluded negotiations with California, agreeing to design and release new vehicles which will average 50 miles per gallon.
Fuel efficient vehicles would not only benefit consumers’ pocketbooks, but could substantially lower carbon dioxide emissions by 2026, too.
But General Motors—along with Toya and Fiat-Chrysler—defected, opting to join the Trump administration’s lawsuit against California.
Publicly, GM said its decision to support the White House was one born of economic necessity—that it would be too difficult for an automaker to offer different cars with different emissions systems to different states.
But with President Trump set to lose the White House come January, General Motors has backed down.
“We are confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the US auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future,” General Motors wrote in a letter to environmental groups, which was signed off by the company’s CEO, Mary Barra. “To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the preemption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us.”
Company spokesperson Jeanine Ginivan insisted that General Motors’ decision to support the suit in the first place was not political.
“Our decision to intervene in the litigation, was not about siding with Trump,” Ginivan wrote in an email to CNN. “The decision was consistent with our desire for one national standard, which we still support.”
James Hewitt of the Environmental Protection Agency provided a curt—and potentially humorous—comment on GM’s flip-flop.
“It’s always interesting,” Hewitt said, “to see the changing positions of U.S. corporations.”
Toyota, pressed for comment by CNN, said that it is constantly “evaluating” its positions but has not made a decision to withdraw from litigation.
“Given the changing circumstances, we are assessing the situation, but remain committed to our goal of a consistent, unitary set of fuel economy standards applicable in all 50 states,” Toyota said.
Meanwhile, President-Elect Joe Biden has used General Motors’ withdrawal from the suit as evidence that the Trump administration’s environmental policies were poorly planned and never sustainable.
“GM’s decision reinforces how shortsighted the Trump Administration’s efforts to erode American ingenuity and America’s defenses against the climate threat truly are,” Biden said in a statement.