FUEL EFFICIENCY: Trump proposes rollback of Obama's clean auto rules

Larry Hoffman
August 3, 2018

After the EPA announced in April that it intends to remove the Obama-era mileage standard, California and 16 other states sued the EPA to fight the Trump rule change.

Representatives of the US auto industry praised the administration's proposal, even as some automakers privately have expressed unease at the prospect of abrupt changes in fuel standards and having to meet different standards in different states.

Jeff Alson, a former policy adviser for the EPA office of transportation and air quality in Ann Arbor, has worked on vehicle emissions for 40 years at the agency.

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

"There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026", Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.

And California Attorney General Xavier Becrra also expressed his strong opposition to the Trump Administration's proposal to weaken national greenhouse gas emission and fuel efficiency regulations at the expense of public health and the environment.

The administration argues that higher fuel economy standards are a safety risk, claiming that if cars that are more efficient are more expensive, people will be less likely the buy newer cars with improved safety features, and if they spend less on gas, they'd drive more and therefore be at greater risk of crashes. "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".

"My job as the state's attorney general is to protect my state's rights and interests and the environmental rights of all Pennsylvanians", Shapiro said.

According to Trump administration estimates, the Obama fuel efficiency standards would raise the price of vehicles by an average of $2,340. They said the average cost of a new automobile is $35,000 and attributed part of that to increasing fuel standards.

The EPA and NHTSA are giving the public 60 days to provide feedback to the new proposal.

While the new standard is significantly lower than Obama's 2025 target of 54 miles per gallon, the difference is expected to have a minimal impact on climate.

The plan to revise pollution rules has been in the works for more than a year. "Maine wants cleaner cars nationwide because upwind pollution matters so much to us, so we've done our part by using the best clean vehicle standards available".

The proposal to roll back anti-pollution efforts is in line with President Donald Trump's decision past year to abandon the 2015 Paris Agreement, under which countries agreed to take steps to mitigate global warming.

And so what the Trump this is also doing, along with freezing the CAFE standards, is limiting the extent to which states can impose regulations on other states and on manufacturers.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a main industry group, sought to stave off any dispute between California and the federal government that could split the USA auto market: "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 American drivers".

A drawn-out legal battle over the standards could hurt the auto industry as it tries to plan for coming model years.

In 2012, when the standards were first adopted, cars were about 50 per cent of new-vehicle sales.

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