Chevrolet Bolt
A fully electric Chevrolet Bolt on a California beach. Courtesy General Motors

Former Gov. Jerry Brown lambasted the Trump administration’s efforts Friday to roll back auto pollution standards and force California to comply as “bureaucratic thuggery.”

Brown, who made environmental protection a centerpiece of his administration, took to Twitter after the Justice Department launched an antitrust probe of four automakers who had agreed to comply with California’s clean-air standards.

The Trump administration has sought to roll back the Obama Administration’s fuel efficiency standards, but Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen agreed in July to work directly with California. Then in August, the President tweeted his opposition.

“My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3000, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer. Engines would run smoother. Very little impact on the environment! Foolish executives!” the president said.

Then on Friday, the Justice Department launched an antitrust probe, saying the agreement to work with California could represent an unlawful cartel.

“Trump’s police threaten carmakers for following California’s clean air law,” responded Brown. “This smacks of Stalinism and bureaucratic thuggery at its worst.”

Automakers have urged the federal government and California to work together to prevent the U.S. auto market from splitting into two over pollution standards.

The Trump administration has argued that cars are clean enough now, and making them cleaner would drive up the price, forcing consumers to avoid replacement and as a result, according to the official position, make driving less safe.

The Obama-era standards required cars and light trucks to reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The new California agreement adjusts that to 51 mpg by 2026. The Trump administration wants to set the standard at 37 mpg by 2020 and stop.

Before beginning his campaign in earnest, the President drove a 2015 Ross-Royce Phantom. The giant vehicle gets 11 miles per gallon in city driving and 19 on the highway.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.