Trump Administration Proposes Freezing Obama-Era Vehicle Fuel Economy Requirements

04 August, 2018, 02:11 | Author: Jacqueline Daniels
  • Trump's EPA formally launches attack on California's fuel-economy rules

Nineteen US states have announced plans to sue the Trump administration over its "reckless and illegal plan" to rollback Obama-era clean vehicle rules. The 54 mile per gallon rule might sound high, but when automakers factor in government credits and other loop holes, experts said that the average will be closer to 36 miles per gallon.

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 called its plan a "50-state fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standard for passenger cars and light trucks".

The administration's rule aims to preempt California's Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver and argues that it should be pulled entirely.

"We urge California and the federal government to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America's drivers", said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Some of the states poised to join the suit, including Pennsylvania, adhere to California's stricter standards.

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

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It also wants to stop states such as California being able to set their own standards.

The Trump administration has moved to weaken U.S. vehicle emissions standards and has set up a major confrontation with California by scrapping its ability to enact stricter pollution standards and mandate the sale of electric cars. The administration's assertion that lighter, more fuel efficient cars are more risky has been disputed by transport experts.

Under the Obama administration's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, new cars sold in the US must average about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. It's likely to set up a lengthy legal battle between California and the Trump administration.

In an analysis of the proposed freeze, the researchers at the Rhodium Group noted that future oil prices would play a major role in determining the overall effect of the relaxed standards, since higher oil prices push consumers into smaller, more fuel-efficient cars (though of course, modern crossovers are quickly closing the fuel-economy gap on sedans).

The rollback has provoked outcry from environmental and health groups, as well as states who are pushing for cleaner vehicle fleets.

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California joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in suing the EPA in May, asking the court to review the EPA's proposed actions. Assuming, strictly for illustration purposes, a gasoline price of three dollars per gallon, that would result in an increased annual fuel expenditure of about $318. That would price many buyers out of the new-vehicle market, forcing them to drive older, less-safe vehicles that pollute more, the administration says.

The administration asserts the freeze will also improve vehicle affordability "leading to increased use of newer, safer, cleaner and more efficient vehicles". He cautions that as the EPA provides more information about its new proposed standard, those calculations may change.

At the same time, it plans to block California from putting its own mileage standards into place. The rulemaking will set the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) and light-duty vehicle greenhouse emissions standards for light trucks and will set the greenhouse gas and mileage standards for 2021-2026.

The government believes freezing the current 2020 standards until 2026 will produce several benefits with few drawbacks.

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