Monday, April 2, 2018

Last Call For Trump's Emission Mission

Scott Pruitt and the Trump EPA just killed those Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, and want to force all states to comply with the new lower standards, including California.

Setting up its most aggressive clash yet with California over environmental standards, the Trump administration signaled Monday it may revoke the state's ability under the Clean Air Act to impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions.

The announcement came as the administration confirmed it is tearing up landmark fuel economy rules pushing auto-makers to manufacture cleaner burning cars and SUVs.

"Cooperative federalism doesn't mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country," Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said in a statement. "EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford – while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It's in everyone's best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to working with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard."

Pruitt said that the administration will abandon the federal goal of having the vehicles average 55 miles per gallon by 2025. That target will be replaced with a weaker fuel economy standard that the administration will settle on at a later date.

The action sets up the administration for a confrontation with California and a dozen other states that have authority under federal law to continue pursuing the Obama era target. Those states met the administration's action with defiance.

The current national fuel economy targets, which were championed by California, represent the single biggest action the federal government has taken to curb greenhouse gases. They are crucial to California and other states to meeting their goals for climate action and reducing smog and other air pollution. The targets are also essential to an effort led by Gov. Jerry Brown and others to carry the country toward meeting the obligations in the Paris Accord on climate change that the Trump administration is refusing to honor.

The administration's action, which came at the behest of automakers, could have little use to them if California succeeds in holding out. The state has unique authority under the Clean Air Act to impose standards tougher than the EPA, and other states are permitted under federal law to embrace the California rules. A dozen states have. They are poised to join California in fighting the administration.

Automakers were counting on electric cars tipping the scales for their fleet averages enough to get those numbers up to 55 MPG by 2025, but sales aren't going so well (ask Tesla.)  Chevy and Nissan are doing well enough with their electric offerings, but other automakers are struggling, even with the electric car tax credit.

But now the Trump regime is going after the Clean Air Act and this will certainly end up in front of the Supreme Court again, the same Supreme Court that ruled that Obama-era power plant emissions curbs were unconstitutional.  We'll see where this goes, but I expect California to lose, and I expect the standards to be dropped significantly from 55 MPG to something far less.

Good thing we didn't elect that Hillary bitch though, things might have gotten really bad for the environment, I'm sure.

Begun, These Trade Wars Have

To paraphrase Yoda in the Star Wars prequels there, appropriate because our current government is a fantasy with strange-colored puppets and doesn't make a lot of sense.  Despite the notion last month of Beijing coming to the negotiating table in response to Trump's belligerence, China has instead gone full bore on trade retaliation that will quickly begin to harm US farmers and growers and is calling Trump's bluff completely.

China says it's rolling out new tariffs on U.S. meat, fruit and other products as retaliation against taxes approved by President Trump on imported steel and aluminum.

The Chinese finance ministry says in a statement that the new tariffs begin Monday.

The announcement follows through on warnings Chinese officials have made for several weeks in an escalating trade dispute with the United States.

China's Customs Tariff Commission is increasing the tariff rate on eight imported U.S. products, including pork, by 25 percent. It's also imposing a new 15 percent tariff on 120 imported U.S. commodities, including fruits.

The tariffs mirror Mr. Trump's 25 percent charge on imported steel and 15 percent hike on aluminum. Mr. Trump's tariffs are partly a response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Again, agriculture in Trump states are going to be hurt the most.  Right now the damage is limited to about $3 billion a year, but remember that Trump already wants $50-60 billion in yearly sanctions against China and there will be more coming in the months ahead.  It's a full-scale trade war if Trump continues, and Republicans will pay dearly for it in November.

Meanwhile, Beijing is hitting us where it really counts: Chinese real estate investment has all but vanished in West Coast states.

Chinese companies have been among the biggest commercial real estate investors in the Los Angeles area in the last five years, spending more than $5 billion to buy property in the region during that time, according to brokerage Cushman and Wakefield. That includes the sites of billion-dollar condominium, hotel and retail complexes being built downtown and large airport-area hotels that have been upgraded by their Chinese owners.

But they are withdrawing from some high-profile ventures as leaders in Beijing constrict the flow of money out of the country. In August, China's State Council laid down new regulations on outbound investments to reduce the risk of runaway debt and to blunt capital flight.

Also dramatically on the wane is Chinese investment through the federal EB-5 program, which allows foreigners to apply to become legal U.S. residents in exchange for investing $500,000 or more in a business that creates or preserves at least 10 jobs.

Millions of dollars raised by individual Chinese investors angling for green cards in past years have paid for such major projects as the trendy Dream Hotel complex in Hollywood and the Courtyard Los Angeles L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.

"There has been a huge fall-off in EB-5 funding," said Los Angeles attorney Jim Butler, who helps arrange investments from overseas through the program.

China can definitely make our lives far more miserable than we can theirs right now.  We import over $100 billion from China a year and Trump wants that to essentially end.

When it does, it's going to take a lot of jobs with it, particularly retail, agriculture, and manufacturing. I've been saying for a while now that Trump's tax cuts in addition to a Chinese trade war and the housing bubble means a guaranteed recession on the horizon, and soon.  Should that include a shooting war too in Iran or North Korea, very much a possibility now, and you have the recipe for an American economic disaster that will make the last one look like a walk in the park.

Immigration Nation, Con't

Meanwhile in the absence of Republicans who control Congress actually doing anything, America's immigration policy is now being directed by an angry 71-year-old FOX News viewer who keeps screaming at the TV.

President Trump said Sunday that there would be no deal to legalize the status of millions of “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, and directed congressional Republicans to pass tough new anti-immigration legislation.

Trump also criticized Mexican authorities as being too lax about border security, saying the U.S.-Mexico border was “getting more dangerous.” He threatened to “stop” the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico does not “stop the big drug and people flows.”

In fiery Sunday morning tweets, sent an hour after he wished Americans a “HAPPY EASTER” and minutes before he attended a church service here, Trump vowed, “NO MORE DACA DEAL.”

As he walked into an Episcopal service at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea with first lady Melania and daughter Tiffany, Trump elaborated on his position on immigration to the traveling pool of reporters. He accused congressional Democrats of stymieing a potential deal to protect dreamers, after Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in the fall.

“A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA,” Trump said. “They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it.”

The president added, “Mexico has got to help us at the border ... They flow right through Mexico; they send them into the United States. It can't happen like that way anymore.”

In his first of three immigration-related tweets, Trump wrote, “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

The DACA program was begun during the Obama administration to provide temporary protection to dreamers. Trump canceled DACA in the fall but said he would like to reach a deal with Congress to protect the dreamers from deportation in exchange for funding to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

He, however, went on to reject immigration proposals from congressional Democrats.

Trump's Sunday tweets may have been in response to commentary on Fox News Channel, which he is known to watch regularly. Fox aired a segment earlier in the morning with the headline: “CARAVAN OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS HEADED TO U.S.

So at this point the best way to reach Trump on taking executive action is to run a story about it on Fox and Friends in the morning.  That makes them one of the most politically powerful players in DC.

And that should scare the pants off you.


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