Trump Administration Rolls Back Obama Era Fuel Efficiency Standards

Donald Trump's EPA seeks to "fix" fuel efficiency standards by rolling back Obama-era rules. The move faces stiff opposition from lawmakers and citizens.

Heading in reverse: Trump's proposal to rollback fuel efficiency standards

The Trump administration is gutting Obama-era fuel efficiency rules. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a notice to “correct” the federal automobile fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards enacted under Obama.

Most Americans support the current standards, as multiple polls show. Almost seven in 10 voters want the EPA to leave the current standards in place, a poll by the American Lung Association found. A poll by the Consumers Union found that almost nine in 10 consumers think automakers should continue to improve the fuel efficiency for all vehicles.

California plans to fight the new standards

The new rules would lock in new standards through 2026 and would create fuel economy and GHG emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks across the 50 states. California has the right to set stricter tailpipe emissions standards under the Clean Air Act and other states are allowed to adopt those same standards. Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia follow those standards. The current proposal revokes California’s rights to set its own standards.

California state officials are making it clear that the state will fight the proposed rules. Governor Jerry Brown, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary D. Nichols voiced their opposition to the proposed rule. “The California Department of Justice will use every legal tool at its disposal to defend today’s national standards and reaffirm the science behind them,” said Becerra. “We are ready to do what is necessary to hold this Administration accountable.”

“For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere,” said Governor Brown:

“Under his reckless scheme, motorists will pay more at the pump, get worse gas mileage and breathe dirtier air. California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”

“CARB will examine all 978 pages of fine print to figure out how the Administration can possibly justify its absurd conclusion that weakening standards to allow dirtier, less efficient vehicles will actually save lives and money,” said Nichols. “Stay tuned for further comment.”

Representative Mark DeSaulnier introduced a House resolution opposing the proposed rule that would rollback current fuel economy and emissions standards and stop California’s waiver. DeSaulnier led a coalition of 60 Democratic members of the House who supported the resolution.

“Our resolution puts the Administration on alert that this move will be met with strong and coordinated opposition across the country,” said DeSaulnier.

“I will fight for California’s waiver and support policies that move the industry forward, provide savings for consumers, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and help combat climate change,” said Senator Kamala Harris (CA-D).

California is currently suffering from the impacts of climate change. There are 18 wildfires burning in California, including the Mendocino Complex fire, the largest wildfire in the history of the state, which has burned 304,402 acres as of August 8. California has experienced extreme heat throughout the state this summer which as fueled the fires.

The current standards would save money, fuel, and carbon emissions

The EPA claims that the current standards would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car and impose over $500 billion in “societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.” However, the EPA’s 2016 assessment of the same standards found that they would result in a net lifetime consumer savings of $1,460 to $1,620. The net benefits to consumers, including fuel savings, would be $90 to $94 billion. The current standards would also prevent six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution and save 12 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles under the standards.

Rolling back the current standards would increase domestic oil consumption by 126,000 and 283,000 barrels per day in 2025, an analysis by the Rhodium Group found. By 2030, that would increase to 221,000 to 644,000 barrels per day, and to 252,000 and 881,000 by 2035. GHG emissions would also increase and crude oil prices would rise from just below the current $70 to $83 in 2025 and $89 in 2030. The cost to consumers at the gas pump would be an additional $193 to $236 billion cumulatively between now and 2035.

Image credit: tobze, courtesy Flickr

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