Accuracy in Media

You better not side with the Trump administration on a public policy issue, or Democrats will take revenge on you when they win the White House in 2020, according to a story on the news pages of the Washington Post on Friday.

“Big automakers take risks in siding with Trump administration against California,” read the headline on the story by Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey.

“The decision this week by several major automakers – including General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler – to back the Trump administration in a high-stakes legal fight with California over fuel-efficiency standards has fractured an industry that has long prided itself for speaking with a single voice in Washington,” read the lead.

“It also represents a calculated political risk, sowing doubt about the industry’s climate commitments and potentially backfiring if Democrats take back the White House in 2020.”

Democrats are mad, especially those “historically allied with the auto industry,” the Post wrote. And some consumers have been “angered,” with one tweeting “Boycott time.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said she and fellow Democrats would push to impose stricter mileage standards through legislation. “Something is going to happen in Congress on fuel economy standards,” she said.

The Post responded: “For the time being, President Trump would probably block such legislation. But Margo Oge, who directed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1994 to 2012 and who helped negotiate Obama-era fuel standards, said the automakers’ decision to back the administration would have implications if Democrats take back the White House in 2020.

“’When the Democrats come into the White House, they aren’t going to forget what these companies have done,’ she said.”

Responding from concerns within the industry that the new gas mileage limits could not be reached without compromising the safety of the cars, the administration said in August it planned to freeze fuel-efficiency requirements through 2026 – “a massive regulatory rollback likely to spur a legal battle with California and other states as well as potential upheaval in the nation’s automotive market.”

On top of that, it plans to revoke California’s longstanding ability to set its own, more stringent tailpipe emissions standards and, as the Post put it, “restrict the ability of other states to follow its lead.” It then wrote, incongruously, that the Obama administration’s aim had been to set a nationwide standard and the Trump administration’s proposal “threatens to blow up that delicate compromise.”

The Post maintained the change was just too dramatic. It wrote in August that “the proposal represents an abrupt reversal of the approach during the Obama administration, when regulators argued that requiring more-fuel-efficient vehicles would improve public health, combat climate change and save consumers money without compromising safety.”

Car makers have said for years the changes required to achieve the mileage levels the government demanded under President Obama would have resulted in unsafe vehicles. The Trump administration is not freezing the required mileage increases; it has proposed that they be reduced to 1.5 percent per year, down from the 4.7 percent required under existing federal regulations.

The Post closed its story on automakers’ decision to back the administration with a quote from Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board. She said she was “disappointed that companies such as Toyota would side with the administration, given that her state accounts for 20 percent of the firm’s U.S. market.

“’There are more Priuses on the road out here than the rest of the country,’” she said.

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