President Trump open to negotiations with Calif. on auto gas mileage

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In Washington D.C., some of the world's top automakers met with President Trump today amid a struggle over climate rules for motor vehicles. The current administration wants to roll back some of the Obama-era policies that are now in place, but California is against it.

Talking about the future of the country's auto industry, President Trump hinted at signs of cooperation but maintained his promise to put America first.

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Many are awaiting an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency, that could loosen regulations aimed at requiring automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and light trucks to more than 50 miles per gallon.

"We have a great capacity for building," said the president. "We're importing a lot of cars, and we want a lot of those cars to be made in the United States."

During the meeting, President Trump instructed his administration to explore negotiations with California, on achieving a single fuel economy standard for the nation. Automakers are concerned about the potential of having to engineer, and produce two versions of each of their vehicle models if California is able to maintain its own set of standards.

Immediately after the meeting, a group of 10 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to auto executives defending the Obama-era regulations, which read in part: "These standards are not only appropriate and achievable... but are also necessary for progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption... as well as for driving innovation and job growth."

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord was among those who signed the letter. He said: "They're talking out of both sides of their mouth. They're playing up to Trump, saying well, we need more flexibility, we want a national standard. On the other hand, they're saying, well, we want to deal with California."

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Earlier this month, California was joined by 17 other states in suing the Trump administration over its plan to reconsider the standards.Current rules call for an average of about 50 miles per gallon by 2025. However, EPA officials have been circulating a draft that would freeze the federal limits at 2020 levels, and would also challenge California's ability to set its own rules.

"To say this is about jobs or more choices for people and cars, diminishes and completely fails to mention the health consequences," says Terry Trumbell, environmental studies professor at San Jose State University.

Automakers have been lobbying the Trump administration to revisit the requirements, saying they'll have trouble reaching them because more people are buying trucks and SUV's than ever before.

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