Audi exec brushes off Trump’s rollback

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2019

“Regardless of what happens with the rollback or not, we at Audi and Volkswagen are going to continue to improve our fuel economy,” said Spencer Reeder, director of government affairs with Audi of America.

“Audi, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, has been very explicit about our support for the Paris Agreement on climate change. We are committed to year-over-year reductions in CO2 emissions from our vehicle fleets,” Reeder said at a transportation and infrastructure summit in Washington, D.C., sponsored by The Atlantic.

“And that really then necessitates a continuing improvement in fleet fuel economy,” he added. “So for us, it’s really not a question of any type of regulatory framework. We’re doing this with our fleet.”

Reeder’s comments were not entirely surprising, given that Volkswagen was one of four automakers to reach a voluntary agreement with California air regulators this summer to improve fuel economy.

They nonetheless marked some of Audi’s strongest comments against the rollback to date, and they spoke to the sharp divisions in the auto industry concerning one of Trump’s most consequential deregulatory proposals for climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to dialing back fuel economy standards, the Trump administration has proposed stripping California of its legal authority to set tougher-than-federal tailpipe pollution rules.

Reeder voiced concern that stripping California of this ability would lead to a patchwork of state regulations, undermining regulatory certainty.

“It’s not the ideal solution,” he said. “We’ve been consistent in saying that the better solution is like what we achieved with the Obama administration, which is a unified program that harmonizes California’s aims with the federal government.”

Moderator Robinson Meyer, a staff writer for The Atlantic, asked Reeder whether bureaucrats in the Trump administration lack a basic understanding of the auto industry.

Reeder strove to be diplomatic in his answer, praising career staffers for carrying on their work under Trump.

“I think there’s good intentions throughout the federal agencies working on this,” he said, adding, “So I think there’s a lot of well-intentioned folks that are trying to thread the needle here.”

Meyer also asked Reeder whether car companies have a role to play in advocating for public transit as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

“I don’t think we can be too sanguine about transit being the solution, even though I’m a willing public transit participant,” he said.

“The attachment to the single-occupant vehicle is going to be here for a while at least,” he added.

The Atlantic’s summit lasted roughly two hours this morning and featured a range of experts on the energy and environmental implications of transportation and infrastructure.