I am never one to usually argue for more government in our lives. The argument I am about to make isn’t for more government, but a consolidation of authority to allow one standard for all American citizens and automakers.


California is a beautiful state, the scenery, the people, the culture are second to none. California’s government is less beautiful. Prone to totalitarian rules for absolutely everything they are the undisputed home of the toughest emissions standards in the country. Which brings us to today’s discussion. Should individual states be able to set vehicle emissions standards?

Argument for States Rights

The argument for this of course is the generally accepted fact that states are sovereign entities and govern largely independent of federal input. This was much more true in the early colonial times when Senators actually answered to the people of their state and not their party affiliation masters. Further the amount of federal dollars disbursed to states removes autonomy even further. To keep the money flowing states generally follow what the feds tell them to. The problem with each state setting their own standards for international businesses, which make no mistake car manufacturing is definitely international,  is that you end up with higher priced vehicles or vehicles with so many varied pieces that there is no consistency, or they build everything to the highest standard and everyone else eats the cost for one states more rigid policy.

Argument for Federal Regulation

This is exactly why the Federal Government exists. To regulate interstate commerce and in this case interstate standards. A car sold in Maine should be legal in all 50 states. The other piece of this are the safety standards. They are federally regulated, there are some state specific nuances in regards to accessories and modifications, but the overall rule set is regulated by Congress and the NHTSA.

More Thoughts

Most manufacturers certify their vehicle to the tough California standards which means they would meet all other 49 states requirements as well. That works fine for now and will probably work for some time to come. Unless other states start to change their rules or the Federal Government, as it has already started, begins reducing requirements.

As an enthusiast I prefer to have sensible standards to protect the environment while providing enjoyment and allowing for modification of the vehicle for an intended purpose.

What do you think? Federal standards or individual state standards? Comment below.

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William Connor

As the Editor, William is responsible for all the good, the bad, the ugly and the indifferent that happens at 4WAAM. William brings a wide range of experience to this role. He also wields a freely shared...

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