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World Leaders Stress Need to Educate Girls

Leaders of France, Canada and Britain called Tuesday on world nations to boost efforts to educate girls, warning that “catastrophes” can result from failure to provide access to quality schooling.

Without educating girls, nations lose productivity and risk instability and conflict, they said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations.

More than 130 million girls, many in conflict-ridden or poor regions around the world, do not attend school, according to the World Bank, costing as much as $30 trillion in lost earnings and productivity.

A lack of education puts girls at risk of child marriage, poor health, early pregnancies, joblessness and poverty, experts say.

But the rest of the world pays a price as well, in terms of economic power and political stability, world leaders said at a U.N. event promoting girls’ education.

“It’s an investment. If we don’t do it, then we will be preparing for catastrophes,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “If we don’t do anything, others will take hold of the agenda and there will be a crisis.”

Quality education must include cultural and social standards that address gender inequality, he said.

“It’s because we haven’t stepped up to the mark and provided appropriate education that we are entrenching those traditional values instead of overturning them,” he said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called on other nations to ensure girls have access to 12 years of free, quality education.

“Improving access to education is not only the right thing to do, it’s also at the heart of the UK’s drive to boost economic growth, improve stability and reduce conflict around the world,” she said.

Ensuring quality education for all was among the 17 global goals adopted unanimously three years ago by U.N. members to eradicate such issues as poverty and inequality by 2030.

“When you empower women to take better decisions than have been taken in the past, we all end up benefiting,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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World Leaders Stress Need to Educate Girls

Leaders of France, Canada and Britain called Tuesday on world nations to boost efforts to educate girls, warning that “catastrophes” can result from failure to provide access to quality schooling.

Without educating girls, nations lose productivity and risk instability and conflict, they said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations.

More than 130 million girls, many in conflict-ridden or poor regions around the world, do not attend school, according to the World Bank, costing as much as $30 trillion in lost earnings and productivity.

A lack of education puts girls at risk of child marriage, poor health, early pregnancies, joblessness and poverty, experts say.

But the rest of the world pays a price as well, in terms of economic power and political stability, world leaders said at a U.N. event promoting girls’ education.

“It’s an investment. If we don’t do it, then we will be preparing for catastrophes,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “If we don’t do anything, others will take hold of the agenda and there will be a crisis.”

Quality education must include cultural and social standards that address gender inequality, he said.

“It’s because we haven’t stepped up to the mark and provided appropriate education that we are entrenching those traditional values instead of overturning them,” he said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called on other nations to ensure girls have access to 12 years of free, quality education.

“Improving access to education is not only the right thing to do, it’s also at the heart of the UK’s drive to boost economic growth, improve stability and reduce conflict around the world,” she said.

Ensuring quality education for all was among the 17 global goals adopted unanimously three years ago by U.N. members to eradicate such issues as poverty and inequality by 2030.

“When you empower women to take better decisions than have been taken in the past, we all end up benefiting,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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Automakers Seek Flexibility at Hearing on Mileage Standards

Automakers sought flexibility while environmental groups blasted the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back fuel economy standards at a public hearing on the plan in the industry’s backyard.

At the hearing Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, home to Ford Motor Co. and just miles from the General Motors and Fiat Chrysler home offices, industry officials repeated two themes: They’ll keep working to make cars and trucks more efficient, but they may not be able to meet existing standards because people are buying more trucks and SUVs.

Environmental groups, though, urged the government to scrap its plan to roll back the standards and instead keep in place the ones that were reaffirmed in the waning days of the Obama administration. They said the technology to meet the standards at low costs is available, and they accused President Donald Trump’s Department of Transportation of twisting numbers to justify the rollback.

Nearly 150 people were scheduled to testify at the hearing, the second on the preferred option of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.

In 2016, for the first time since the latest standards started, the auto industry couldn’t meet them without using emissions credits earned in prior years, said Steve Bartoli, vice president of fuel economy compliance for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The reason is because with relatively low gas prices, people are buying more trucks and SUVs rather than fuel-efficient cars, he said.

Last year, cars made up only 36 percent of the U.S. new-vehicle fleet, something that wasn’t expected when the current requirements were put in place six years ago, he said. “The forecasts referenced by the agencies at that time showed cars increasing from 50 percent to 57 percent of annual vehicle sales by 2025,” Bartoli said.

The Obama EPA proposed raising the standard to 36 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) by 2025, about 10 miles per gallon (4 kilometers per liter) higher than the current requirement. The goal was to reduce car emissions and save money at the pump.

Trump administration officials say waiving the tougher fuel efficiency requirements would make vehicles more affordable, which would get safer cars into consumers’ hands more quickly.

Industry response

Bartoli and other industry representatives said they’ll keep making vehicles more efficient, but need the more flexible standards because of the market shift. Industry officials said they don’t support a full freeze on the standards.

“FCA is willing to work with all parties on a data-driven final rule that results in market-facing fuel economy improvements that also support greater penetration of alternative powertrains” such as electric vehicles, Bartoli said.

Rhett Ricart, a Columbus, Ohio, car dealer who is regulatory chairman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said trying to force people into efficient cars is like trying to make a 3-year-old eat vegetables. “If he doesn’t like vegetables, you can’t stuff his mouth full of them,” Ricart said.

Environmental response

But environmental groups said the Obama standards should remain in place, arguing that the technology is advancing so fast that automakers can meet the standards without adding huge costs for consumers. They said by the EPA’s own calculations, 60,000 jobs will be lost by 2030 developing and building fuel efficient technologies. They urged NHTSA and the EPA, which are holding the hearings, to scrap their preferred option of a freeze.

John German, senior fellow with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a group that pushes for stronger standards, said outside the hearing that the Trump administration’s cost estimates per car for the Obama standards are inflated to justify the freeze. Consumer savings at the pump are roughly three times the cost, which the ICCT calculates to be $551 per vehicle.

He also said the industry has developed lower-cost improvements to internal combustion powertrains faster than expected, so auto companies can meet standards without selling a lot of electric vehicles.

Environmental groups also said the Obama standards vary with vehicle size and give the industry flexibility to meet them. “The standards are working as designed,” German said.

California response

At Monday’s hearing in Fresno, California, state officials said the proposed rollback would damage people’s health and exacerbate climate change, and they demanded the Trump administration back off.

Looming over the administration’s proposal is the possibility that California, which has become a key leader on climate change as Trump has moved to dismantle Obama-era environmental rules, could set its own fuel standard that could roil the auto industry. That’s a change the federal government is trying to block.

“California will take whatever actions are needed to protect our people and follow the law,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, testified at the hearing.

Automakers want one standard for the whole country, so they don’t have to design different vehicles for California and the states that follow its requirements.

Another hearing is planned Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

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Automakers Seek Flexibility at Hearing on Mileage Standards

Automakers sought flexibility while environmental groups blasted the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back fuel economy standards at a public hearing on the plan in the industry’s backyard.

At the hearing Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, home to Ford Motor Co. and just miles from the General Motors and Fiat Chrysler home offices, industry officials repeated two themes: They’ll keep working to make cars and trucks more efficient, but they may not be able to meet existing standards because people are buying more trucks and SUVs.

Environmental groups, though, urged the government to scrap its plan to roll back the standards and instead keep in place the ones that were reaffirmed in the waning days of the Obama administration. They said the technology to meet the standards at low costs is available, and they accused President Donald Trump’s Department of Transportation of twisting numbers to justify the rollback.

Nearly 150 people were scheduled to testify at the hearing, the second on the preferred option of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.

In 2016, for the first time since the latest standards started, the auto industry couldn’t meet them without using emissions credits earned in prior years, said Steve Bartoli, vice president of fuel economy compliance for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The reason is because with relatively low gas prices, people are buying more trucks and SUVs rather than fuel-efficient cars, he said.

Last year, cars made up only 36 percent of the U.S. new-vehicle fleet, something that wasn’t expected when the current requirements were put in place six years ago, he said. “The forecasts referenced by the agencies at that time showed cars increasing from 50 percent to 57 percent of annual vehicle sales by 2025,” Bartoli said.

The Obama EPA proposed raising the standard to 36 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) by 2025, about 10 miles per gallon (4 kilometers per liter) higher than the current requirement. The goal was to reduce car emissions and save money at the pump.

Trump administration officials say waiving the tougher fuel efficiency requirements would make vehicles more affordable, which would get safer cars into consumers’ hands more quickly.

Industry response

Bartoli and other industry representatives said they’ll keep making vehicles more efficient, but need the more flexible standards because of the market shift. Industry officials said they don’t support a full freeze on the standards.

“FCA is willing to work with all parties on a data-driven final rule that results in market-facing fuel economy improvements that also support greater penetration of alternative powertrains” such as electric vehicles, Bartoli said.

Rhett Ricart, a Columbus, Ohio, car dealer who is regulatory chairman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said trying to force people into efficient cars is like trying to make a 3-year-old eat vegetables. “If he doesn’t like vegetables, you can’t stuff his mouth full of them,” Ricart said.

Environmental response

But environmental groups said the Obama standards should remain in place, arguing that the technology is advancing so fast that automakers can meet the standards without adding huge costs for consumers. They said by the EPA’s own calculations, 60,000 jobs will be lost by 2030 developing and building fuel efficient technologies. They urged NHTSA and the EPA, which are holding the hearings, to scrap their preferred option of a freeze.

John German, senior fellow with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a group that pushes for stronger standards, said outside the hearing that the Trump administration’s cost estimates per car for the Obama standards are inflated to justify the freeze. Consumer savings at the pump are roughly three times the cost, which the ICCT calculates to be $551 per vehicle.

He also said the industry has developed lower-cost improvements to internal combustion powertrains faster than expected, so auto companies can meet standards without selling a lot of electric vehicles.

Environmental groups also said the Obama standards vary with vehicle size and give the industry flexibility to meet them. “The standards are working as designed,” German said.

California response

At Monday’s hearing in Fresno, California, state officials said the proposed rollback would damage people’s health and exacerbate climate change, and they demanded the Trump administration back off.

Looming over the administration’s proposal is the possibility that California, which has become a key leader on climate change as Trump has moved to dismantle Obama-era environmental rules, could set its own fuel standard that could roil the auto industry. That’s a change the federal government is trying to block.

“California will take whatever actions are needed to protect our people and follow the law,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, testified at the hearing.

Automakers want one standard for the whole country, so they don’t have to design different vehicles for California and the states that follow its requirements.

Another hearing is planned Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

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US Intel Chief Warns China Perfecting ‘Surveillance State’

China’s growing prowess in cyberspace is a bigger, more dangerous threat to the United States than Russia’s attempt to undermine U.S. elections, Washington’s top intelligence official said, warning that Beijing is on a path that could lead to global supremacy.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats characterized the Chinese threat as deliberate, methodical and subtle, allowing it to escape the type of notoriety that has followed Moscow’s exploits.

Most worrisome, Coats said, is the way in which an increasingly aggressive China is taking advantage of its relative stable relationship with the U.S. and the rest of the world to hone its cyber capabilities internally.

Specifically, he cited China’s use of its ongoing crackdown on Muslims in the Xinjiang region as a testing ground for its cyber capabilities.

Intelligence officials and human rights groups estimate that China has rounded up possibly millions of Uighurs and other Muslims minorities, including families and children, sending them to re-education centers, where they are forced to renounce their religion and their culture.

Surveillance measures

But Coats said the re-education centers are just the start.

“Chinese officials in the Muslim northwest have instituted high-tech surveillance measures, including the collection of DNA and other biological data throughout the region, with Chinese technology companies at the forefront of these actions,” he told a cybersecurity conference Tuesday at The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina.

He said China is also experimenting with a “social credit ratings program,” using intrusive surveillance to determine access to bank loans, educational opportunities and even medical care.

“The result of this effort is nothing short of a future that involves the perfection of the surveillance state,” Coats warned, adding it also “threatens the export of these tools abroad to other authoritarian regimes.”

An attempt to reach officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington for reaction to Coats’ comments went unanswered, though Chinese officials have previously sought to downplay concerns about their use of cybertechnology in Xinjiang.

One Chinese official claimed last week in Geneva that China’s use of surveillance is no more intrusive than that used by Western countries like Britain.

Coats is not the first U.S. official to warn about the threat from China, but his warning is among the most dire, and reflects a growing concern that Beijing is poised to outmaneuver the U.S. in the cyber domain.

‘Huge concerns’

“Do I have concerns with the Chinese? Huge concerns with regards to their ability to leverage their industry,” Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said last week in Washington, referencing concerns Beijing could use Chinese-made products to spy on Americans.

Already, the Pentagon has banned the sale of mobile phones by Chinese companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE on its military bases because of the potential security risks. Australia, a key U.S. intelligence partner and ally, also banned the two companies from supplying telecommunications equipment.

And military officials, like Ashley, are increasingly worried about the pervasiveness of Chinese-made components in the supply chain and the impact that could have in a range of both combat and noncombat situations.

“My bigger concern may not necessarily be what’s taking place on the battle space if I can’t turn the power on,” Ashley said.

U.S. lawmakers have voiced similar concerns.

“Imagine a world 15 or 20 years from now where our entire communications network is embedded with component pieces made by a company that can remotely control those component pieces by a foreign adversary,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said at a conference this past June during a speech about China. “It would be a threat this country has never faced.”

Cyber targets

A July 2018 report by the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center found that while China’s cyber operations have slowed since a 2015 agreement with the U.S., Beijing “continues to use cyber espionage to support its strategic development goals.”

Most of the Chinese operations target defense contractors and information technology, as well as communications companies “whose products and services support government and private sector networks worldwide.”

And U.S. officials believe China’s malicious cyber activities are growing.

“China is expanding its intrusions,” FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said Tuesday, calling China the No. 1 counterintelligence threat.

“We find them stealing our ideas, our intellectual property, trying to obtain our innovation,” Bowdich said, calling the Chinese efforts “incredibly effective.”

U.S. intelligence officials are also increasingly concerned that China’s efforts, while methodical, are becoming increasingly bold.

China is no longer “hiding its strengths and biding its time,” Coats warned Tuesday. “Beijing is working against the values that the international community has championed, including protecting personal privacy, the free flow of information and the protection of commercial secrets.”

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US Intel Chief Warns China Perfecting ‘Surveillance State’

China’s growing prowess in cyberspace is a bigger, more dangerous threat to the United States than Russia’s attempt to undermine U.S. elections, Washington’s top intelligence official said, warning that Beijing is on a path that could lead to global supremacy.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats characterized the Chinese threat as deliberate, methodical and subtle, allowing it to escape the type of notoriety that has followed Moscow’s exploits.

Most worrisome, Coats said, is the way in which an increasingly aggressive China is taking advantage of its relative stable relationship with the U.S. and the rest of the world to hone its cyber capabilities internally.

Specifically, he cited China’s use of its ongoing crackdown on Muslims in the Xinjiang region as a testing ground for its cyber capabilities.

Intelligence officials and human rights groups estimate that China has rounded up possibly millions of Uighurs and other Muslims minorities, including families and children, sending them to re-education centers, where they are forced to renounce their religion and their culture.

Surveillance measures

But Coats said the re-education centers are just the start.

“Chinese officials in the Muslim northwest have instituted high-tech surveillance measures, including the collection of DNA and other biological data throughout the region, with Chinese technology companies at the forefront of these actions,” he told a cybersecurity conference Tuesday at The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina.

He said China is also experimenting with a “social credit ratings program,” using intrusive surveillance to determine access to bank loans, educational opportunities and even medical care.

“The result of this effort is nothing short of a future that involves the perfection of the surveillance state,” Coats warned, adding it also “threatens the export of these tools abroad to other authoritarian regimes.”

An attempt to reach officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington for reaction to Coats’ comments went unanswered, though Chinese officials have previously sought to downplay concerns about their use of cybertechnology in Xinjiang.

One Chinese official claimed last week in Geneva that China’s use of surveillance is no more intrusive than that used by Western countries like Britain.

Coats is not the first U.S. official to warn about the threat from China, but his warning is among the most dire, and reflects a growing concern that Beijing is poised to outmaneuver the U.S. in the cyber domain.

‘Huge concerns’

“Do I have concerns with the Chinese? Huge concerns with regards to their ability to leverage their industry,” Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said last week in Washington, referencing concerns Beijing could use Chinese-made products to spy on Americans.

Already, the Pentagon has banned the sale of mobile phones by Chinese companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE on its military bases because of the potential security risks. Australia, a key U.S. intelligence partner and ally, also banned the two companies from supplying telecommunications equipment.

And military officials, like Ashley, are increasingly worried about the pervasiveness of Chinese-made components in the supply chain and the impact that could have in a range of both combat and noncombat situations.

“My bigger concern may not necessarily be what’s taking place on the battle space if I can’t turn the power on,” Ashley said.

U.S. lawmakers have voiced similar concerns.

“Imagine a world 15 or 20 years from now where our entire communications network is embedded with component pieces made by a company that can remotely control those component pieces by a foreign adversary,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said at a conference this past June during a speech about China. “It would be a threat this country has never faced.”

Cyber targets

A July 2018 report by the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center found that while China’s cyber operations have slowed since a 2015 agreement with the U.S., Beijing “continues to use cyber espionage to support its strategic development goals.”

Most of the Chinese operations target defense contractors and information technology, as well as communications companies “whose products and services support government and private sector networks worldwide.”

And U.S. officials believe China’s malicious cyber activities are growing.

“China is expanding its intrusions,” FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said Tuesday, calling China the No. 1 counterintelligence threat.

“We find them stealing our ideas, our intellectual property, trying to obtain our innovation,” Bowdich said, calling the Chinese efforts “incredibly effective.”

U.S. intelligence officials are also increasingly concerned that China’s efforts, while methodical, are becoming increasingly bold.

China is no longer “hiding its strengths and biding its time,” Coats warned Tuesday. “Beijing is working against the values that the international community has championed, including protecting personal privacy, the free flow of information and the protection of commercial secrets.”

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California Urges Trump to Drop Plan for Weaker Fuel Standard

California officials demanded Monday that the Trump administration back off a plan to weaken national fuel economy standards aimed at reducing car emissions and saving people money at the pump, saying the proposed rollback would damage people’s health and exacerbate climate change.

 

Looming over the administration’s proposal is the possibility that the state, which has become a key leader on climate change as Trump has moved to dismantle Obama-era environmental rules, could set its own separate fuel standard that could roil the auto industry. That’s a change the federal government is trying to block.

“California will take whatever actions are needed to protect our people and follow the law,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, testified at a hearing with federal officials in a region of central California that has some of the nation’s worst air pollution.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said California could not afford to retreat in the fight against climate change, citing wildfires and high asthma rates among children in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, where residents, environmentalists and state officials testified at the first of three nationwide hearings on the mileage plan.

 

“Stopping us from protecting our people, our jobs and economy or our planet is like trying to stop a mother from protecting her child,” he said.

 

The proposal announced in August by President Donald Trump’s administration would freeze U.S. mileage standards at levels mandated by former President Barack Obama for 2020. The standards regulate how far vehicles must travel on a gallon of fuel.

 

Under the deal finalized under Obama, the standard would rise to 36 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) by 2025, 10 miles per gallon (4 kilometers per liter) higher than the current requirement.

 

Trump administration officials say waiving the tougher fuel efficiency requirements would make vehicles more affordable, which would get safer cars into consumers’ hands more quickly. A major auto industry trade group says it supports annual increases in fuel efficiency but won’t say by how much.

Customers aren’t buying more efficient vehicles, Steve Douglas, senior director of energy and environment for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in testimony prepared for the hearing. The group represents General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen, BMW and other automakers.

 

“No one wins if our customers are not buying the new highly efficient products offered in our showrooms,” the written testimony said. “The standards must account for consumer willingness and ability to pay for newer technologies in order for all the benefits of new vehicles to be realized.”

 

Automakers are unanimous in favoring one standard for the whole country so they don’t have to design two vehicles, one for California and the states that follow its requirements and another for the rest of the nation.

 

Scores of people opposed to the Trump plan testified before representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including local residents who said it would worsen their asthma.

 

More than 130 people, including doctors and electric vehicle advocates, had signed up to speak before the hearing ended.

 

It was held in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the country’s most productive agricultural region but an area plagued by sooty air in part because of its bowl-shaped geography. The Sierra Nevada and two other mountain ranges wall in the 250-mile (400-kilometer) valley. Air pollution there is blamed for hundreds of deaths each year.

 

“We are asking the EPA to represent those of us who have asthma and respiratory disease,” said Janet DietzKamei, 73, a member of the Central Valley Clean Air Coalition.

 

DietzKamei said she is unable to leave her Fresno home on some days because the air is so polluted.

Environmentalists protested outside, hoisting signs reading, “Clean cars (equals) Clean air” and chanting, “Clean cars now.”

 

Paul Gipe, 67, and his wife, Nancy Nies, 69, drove from the city of Bakersfield to join the demonstration.

 

“It’s a step backward, and it’s a statement that air pollution is acceptable. Damn the people, full speed ahead,” said Gipe, who writes about renewable energy on his website.

 

An avid bicyclist, Gipe said there are days he can’t ride because the air quality is so bad in his hometown.

 

California and other states have sued to block any changes to Trump’s proposal. The administration also wants to revoke California’s authority to set its own mileage standards.

 

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in a speech last week that his company is against any freeze of the standards and favors “keeping the standard, not a rollback.”

 

“We have plans to meet it,” he said.

 

The Obama administration had planned to keep toughening fuel requirements through 2026, saying the stricter standards would save lives.

 

Trump administration officials argued they would raise the price of vehicles by an average of more than $2,000. Transportation experts have challenged those arguments.

 

Hearings are also planned on Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, and Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

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California Urges Trump to Drop Plan for Weaker Fuel Standard

California officials demanded Monday that the Trump administration back off a plan to weaken national fuel economy standards aimed at reducing car emissions and saving people money at the pump, saying the proposed rollback would damage people’s health and exacerbate climate change.

 

Looming over the administration’s proposal is the possibility that the state, which has become a key leader on climate change as Trump has moved to dismantle Obama-era environmental rules, could set its own separate fuel standard that could roil the auto industry. That’s a change the federal government is trying to block.

“California will take whatever actions are needed to protect our people and follow the law,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, testified at a hearing with federal officials in a region of central California that has some of the nation’s worst air pollution.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said California could not afford to retreat in the fight against climate change, citing wildfires and high asthma rates among children in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, where residents, environmentalists and state officials testified at the first of three nationwide hearings on the mileage plan.

 

“Stopping us from protecting our people, our jobs and economy or our planet is like trying to stop a mother from protecting her child,” he said.

 

The proposal announced in August by President Donald Trump’s administration would freeze U.S. mileage standards at levels mandated by former President Barack Obama for 2020. The standards regulate how far vehicles must travel on a gallon of fuel.

 

Under the deal finalized under Obama, the standard would rise to 36 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) by 2025, 10 miles per gallon (4 kilometers per liter) higher than the current requirement.

 

Trump administration officials say waiving the tougher fuel efficiency requirements would make vehicles more affordable, which would get safer cars into consumers’ hands more quickly. A major auto industry trade group says it supports annual increases in fuel efficiency but won’t say by how much.

Customers aren’t buying more efficient vehicles, Steve Douglas, senior director of energy and environment for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in testimony prepared for the hearing. The group represents General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen, BMW and other automakers.

 

“No one wins if our customers are not buying the new highly efficient products offered in our showrooms,” the written testimony said. “The standards must account for consumer willingness and ability to pay for newer technologies in order for all the benefits of new vehicles to be realized.”

 

Automakers are unanimous in favoring one standard for the whole country so they don’t have to design two vehicles, one for California and the states that follow its requirements and another for the rest of the nation.

 

Scores of people opposed to the Trump plan testified before representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including local residents who said it would worsen their asthma.

 

More than 130 people, including doctors and electric vehicle advocates, had signed up to speak before the hearing ended.

 

It was held in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the country’s most productive agricultural region but an area plagued by sooty air in part because of its bowl-shaped geography. The Sierra Nevada and two other mountain ranges wall in the 250-mile (400-kilometer) valley. Air pollution there is blamed for hundreds of deaths each year.

 

“We are asking the EPA to represent those of us who have asthma and respiratory disease,” said Janet DietzKamei, 73, a member of the Central Valley Clean Air Coalition.

 

DietzKamei said she is unable to leave her Fresno home on some days because the air is so polluted.

Environmentalists protested outside, hoisting signs reading, “Clean cars (equals) Clean air” and chanting, “Clean cars now.”

 

Paul Gipe, 67, and his wife, Nancy Nies, 69, drove from the city of Bakersfield to join the demonstration.

 

“It’s a step backward, and it’s a statement that air pollution is acceptable. Damn the people, full speed ahead,” said Gipe, who writes about renewable energy on his website.

 

An avid bicyclist, Gipe said there are days he can’t ride because the air quality is so bad in his hometown.

 

California and other states have sued to block any changes to Trump’s proposal. The administration also wants to revoke California’s authority to set its own mileage standards.

 

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in a speech last week that his company is against any freeze of the standards and favors “keeping the standard, not a rollback.”

 

“We have plans to meet it,” he said.

 

The Obama administration had planned to keep toughening fuel requirements through 2026, saying the stricter standards would save lives.

 

Trump administration officials argued they would raise the price of vehicles by an average of more than $2,000. Transportation experts have challenged those arguments.

 

Hearings are also planned on Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, and Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

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