Trump administration to freeze fuel efficiency requirements

EPA moves to scrap Obama-era clean car rules and sets up fight with California

Advocacy groups display silhouettes of children meant to represent Americans hurt by air pollution at a protest of the administration's proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards outside the EPA in Washington, Aug. 2, 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.

Most importantly, it also wants to strip California of its unique right to set more restrictive standards than the federal government-a deal written into the Clean Air Act because the state had been regulating smog long before the federal law existed.

There's already plenty of debate over the Trump administration's plan to freeze fuel-economy and vehicle pollution standards as states like California vow to fight the relaxed rules, and even automakers signal their intent to press on developing cleaner cars. Get the full story in the video above.

"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment", Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement. Meanwhile, California's strict fuel economy and emissions standards have caused financial losses for carmakers, which must raise prices on cars elsewhere to make up for the loss, the proposal states.

The prospect of an extended legal fight has discomfited automakers, who had asked the administration to relax the Obama-era rules but don't want to see the US market split in two, with different models of cars required in blue and red states.

At the same time, it plans to block California from putting its own mileage standards into place. Letting one state make decisions for people in other states makes a bad program even worse, especially since the state is California, which has been pursuing an anti-car agenda for decades.

Feds Officially Propose New Vehicle Emissions Standards
Source EPA DOT

Two former EPA mileage officials said the administration's proposal departed from years of findings on fuel efficiency, auto safety, exhaust emissions and costs.

The prices on new cars have become unaffordable to median-income families in every metropolitan region in the United States except Washington, according to an independent study by Bankrate.com.

The greatest increase in greenhouse gas emissions would happen in the 2030s because electric cars will grow significantly by the 2040s, the Energy Innovation analysis found.

The soaring prices of cars have led more Americans to hold off on new auto purchases. That will be the strategy for the fuel efficiency freeze.

"More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to U.S. roads", said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. "It is anticipated to prevent thousands of on-road fatalities and injuries as compared to the standards set forth in the 2012 final rule".

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 2020 standard would be around 32 miles per gallon. In 1992, a federals appeals court ruled that the NHTSA was using "bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo" to avoid addressing the lethal effects of the CAFE standards.

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