Trump's EPA formally launches rollback of fuel economy standards

Minnie NorrisAug 04, 2018

The proposal would freeze US mileage standards at 2020 levels, when the new vehicle fleet will be required to hit an average of 30 miles per gallon in real-world driving. The Trump administration's proposal instead freezes that figure at its 2020 level of 36.9 miles per gallon.

A provision in the Clean Air Act allowed California to set higher fuel standards. "California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible".

"If enacted, this proposal will cost consumers billions of dollars in additional gasoline to run less efficient cars and light-duty trucks", the California Attorney General's office said in statement.

The auto industry, which has often baulked at the higher costs associated with the tougher United States standards, strongly backs a national standard that could be negotiated between Washington and California.

The plan's release begins a 60-day public comment period. It says keeping the Obama-era standards in place would increase the cost of an average vehicle by $2,340, prompting consumers to hold back in buying newer, safer vehicles and end up aging the nation's fleet of cars on the road.

The states that have adopted California's emission rules together make up about one third of the US auto market.

California and NY are among the states signing on to a statement Thursday pledging legal action against the Trump administration's action on fuel efficiency.

Their unease was reflected in a statement released by Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which urged negotiations between 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".

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted soon after the White House announced the policy change that she saw this as proof that the Trump administration was prioritizing "lining the pockets of big oil over protecting our right to breathe clean air".

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards require automakers' cars to average about 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

The EPA also took a step further in previous plans to challenge the California Air Resources Board's ability to set the state's standards for vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

But Becerra, the California attorney general, said the EPA is rewriting its own detailed analysis from 2012 and that his state is set to exceed its goal of electric vehicles. It might even cause vehicle prices to stop increasing so rapidly.

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

But critics of the proposal note that the auto industry had a stretch of strong sales from 2010 to 2017, with several years seeing record sales, because consumers want more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"The reporting that we're reversing Obama-era fuel efficiency standards in pre-empting the tougher California standards is simply false", Sanders said at the White House briefing.

Schwarzenegger's successor as governor, Jerry Brown, called the Trump administration proposals 'an assault on the health of Americans everywhere'. A dozen other states and Washington DC also follow higher standards.

The administration said the freeze would boost USA oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels of oil a day by the 2030s, and argued it would prevent up to 1,000 traffic fatalities per year by reducing the price of new vehicles and so prompting people to buy newer, safer vehicles more quickly.

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