Trump Administration May Freeze Fuel Efficiency Standards

Dear America, chill out. New standards will save lives and not ruin the world

Weekly Primer: In Argument For Deregulation, Trump Admin Says Dirtier Cars Will Save Lives

Cars on the Grand Central Parkway pass LaGuardia Airport in NY.

According to the Trump Administration, the standards implemented by the previous administration raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles. EPA prepares to roll back fuel economy and emissions rules "The earth is not flat, and climate change is real", California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, as he connected global warming to the deadly wildfires burning out of control throughout the state.

But Pam Frank, CEO and president of ChargEVC, a coalition promoting electric vehicles, called the Trump proposal more of a distraction - given the new products now and coming out from auto manufacturers.

NHTSA and EPA also propose to rescind California's Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver for GHG emissions, in part on the basis that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) preempts California from regulating these emissions. Opponents, including 19 states' attorneys general, have already filed a lawsuit to block the proposal.

The administration's proposal asserts that "attempting to solve climate change, even in part" is "fundamentally different" from the Clean Air Act's "original goal of addressing smog-related air quality problems".

The proposed change, halting further improvement requirements, stakes its case on consumer choice and on highway safety claims challenged by many transportation experts.

California first attempted to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars in 2008, and the Bush administration denied its waiver.

They also said the policy shift would lead to fewer highway deaths by enabling more consumers to afford new vehicles that are safer than those being traded in. It would halt requirements that automakers build cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, including hybrids and electric vehicles. The government says it will seek public comment for a broader picture of the impact of any mileage freeze. "This proposal will substantially increase pollution and will cost the average American family hundreds of dollars a year extra for gas".

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President Donald Trump had called past year for a review of mileage standards, expressing concern they were hurting employment in the USA auto industry.

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. Vehicle expert Simon Mui at the Natural Resources Defense Council says those losses would hit the estimated 200,000 USA auto-industry jobs that deal with making vehicles more fuel efficient. "Can someone please inform the folks at the White House?" he added.

"They don't offer any meaningful example of what has changed so dramatically" to warrant the reversal, said Jeff Alson, who until this spring was a senior engineer in the EPA's transportation and air quality office.

Gov. Jerry Brown did not mince words in his response. That argument remained on the EPA's website Thursday. Other states can choose to follow California's standards - and more than 30 percent of the car-buying market does.

"The administration's effort to roll back these standards is a denial of basic science and a denial of American automakers' engineering capabilities and ingenuity", said John DeCicco, an expert on transportation technology at the University of MI. The affordability argument ignores thousands of dollars of saving in fuel costs for each driver over the life of a vehicle, opponents of the rollbacks said. In May, California and seventeen other states sued EPA for reversing the Obama administration's GHG emission standards Mid-term Evaluation.

NHTSA and the EPA claim current fuel standards are a contributing factor to the increasing cost of new cars that now average $35,000, and backers of the new plan claim keeping current standards will add more than $2,300 to the price of a new auto. "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". "The initiative was said to save "$1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce US oil consumption by 12 billion barrels", in average fuel savings over the lifetime of a vehicle, according to a White House press release.

The Obama rules were meant to ensure progress made during the Democrat's presidency would extend beyond it. Automakers over the last decade have employed lighter materials and tweaked vehicle design to boost fuel efficiency, changes that have improved mileage on even the biggest U.S. gas guzzlers. Don Thompson contributed from Sacramento.

Tom Krisher reported from Detroit.

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