Trump administration plans to lower vehicle emissions standards

Doug Carpenter
August 3, 2018

Under this GOP-controlled Congress, that gambit is unlikely to advance.

President Donald Trump had directed the rethink of the mileage regulations, saying in March 2017, "If the standards threatened auto jobs, then common-sense changes" were needed. It could also become a polarizing issue in elections in November.

The Obama-era rules also drove vehicle prices higher, since prior estimates fell short of what incremental improvements to fuel efficiency actually cost. "We are going to try to work it out".

Trump administration wants to freeze Obama-era requirements that force automakers to manufacture more fuel-efficient vehicles. The resolution enables Congress to essentially void an executive branch regulation it deems misguided or unnecessary. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that it was Ronald Reagan who sought out California's right to regulate emissions.

Chart showing EPA fuel-efficiency targets.

The Trump administration on Thursday announced plans to freeze fuel efficiency requirements for the nation's cars and trucks through 2026 - a massive regulatory rollback likely to create potential upheaval in the nation's automotive market.

The administration said that after cars reach the 2020 standard, additional gains are incremental and that the benefit to making roads safer outweighs any environmental risk.

The proposed rulemaking of the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is intended "to correct the national automobile fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards to give the American people greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles that are cleaner for the environment", the Department of Transportation said in a statement today.

"The agencies' preferred alternative reflects a balance of safety, economics, technology, fuel conservation, and pollution reduction", the DoT wrote in a statement. As a result, the Trump administration estimated that the proposed rule would prevent more than 12,700 on-road fatalities.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation said the increase in emission standards for cars built from 2021 to 2026 would hurt vehicle sales and improve safety of motorists across the country.

The states that have adopted California's emission rules together make up about one third of the US auto market. "California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible".

"I feel like we have a very good and strong case", state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

The proposed rule acknowledges that it would result in a 2 percent to 3 percent increase in fuel consumption, the equivalent of about half a million barrels of oil per day, and a small increase in global average temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The EPA rule also calls for a 50-state solution whereby all states would follow the same mileage and emissions rules - killing California's right to set its own specific rules (certain other states follow California's rules). Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler said on Wednesday he would welcome a deal between the industry and states.

"This has to be absolutely one of the most harmful and dumbest actions that the EPA has taken", said Healey of MA, one of the attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia objecting to the change.

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