UPDATE: We're somehow betting that industry executives aren't going around the Capitol building touting GM head honco Bob Lutz' behind-the-scenes thoughts on global warming...
As per the Detroit Free Press, auto industry executives have grown increasingly concerned about Senator Barbara Boxer's legislation overturning the EPA's California waiver decision. Industry's stepped-up lobbying campaign included a strong presence at the national car dealers' convention last week, and most recently has taken the form of a letter to senators that makes a rather audacious claim about state auto emissions standards:
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler, said in a letter to senators Tuesday that Boxer's bill would break the compromise hammered out last year between environmental groups and the industry for a national standard of 35 m.p.g. by 2020.
"It is unreasonable for Congress to move the goalposts when the ink on this historic energy bill, with its aggressive increase in fuel economy requirements, is barely dry," the alliance said in its letter.
The Alliance employee who drafted that letter might not have had much of a straight face at the time. Industry knows perfectly well that the energy bill said absolutely nothing that ruled out state auto emissions standards (and yes, as two federal judges have agreed, they are in fact emissions standards, not fuel economy requirements). Auto executives might also recall that their repeated attempts at enshrining the CAFE increase as a pre-emptive national standard failed, forcing them to cave in and accept the aforementioned compromise.
AAM also can't be referring to the legislative record-- which has no legal impact but at least could signify a vague understanding with Congress-- because, as we reported at the time, they tried and failed there as well. In the end, the congressional record ended up containing a clear statement that the bill in no way, shape or form should be seen as preempting California's efforts.
If any deal was struck here, it was between the auto industry, its congressional allies, and the Bush administration, concerning the EPA's ensuing use of industry-favored policy arguments (as opposed to any detailed legal rationale, which we've still yet to see from EPA) in not allowing California's program to move forward. Indeed, Congress is currently investigating whether that is the case.
But the idea that, by merely seeking to reverse that legally incorrect decision, Congress would be "moving the goalposts" is simply ludicrous. The industry's substantive argument here really boils down to not much more than, "You're doing something we don't like! Stop!"