Trump Administration Wants To Lower Emissions Standards For Cars

Muriel Hammond
August 4, 2018

Calling a new Trump administration proposal to roll back fuel efficiency standards "insane", Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the state would join 18 others, including California, to legally challenge the sweeping plan to scrap Obama-era rules that set increasingly higher standards.

The Trump administration's proposal would freeze fuel-efficiency standards at 2020 levels - about 37 miles per gallon by 2026, down from the Obama administration's almost 47 mpg - and weaken electric vehicle mandates.

President Donald Trump's proposal also undercuts California's authority to set its own stricter emissions rules for the state.

Continuing its assault on federal rules created to protect the environment and combat global warming, the Trump administration has proposed weakening future fuel efficiency standards for American cars and trucks.

Thirteen states now follow California's requirements. Transportation accounts for almost 40 percent of the state's harmful air pollution, and existing state rules directly reduce tailpipe emissions, becoming more stringent over time. But Trump's EPA said the efficiency rules drive up vehicle prices, keeping many people in older, less safe cars and trucks. For example, Obama's EPA argued that a dual-clutch transmission would soon be widely adopted as a cost-effective way to get more miles per gallon.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation said the increase in emission standards for cars built from 2021 to 2026 would hurt vehicle sales and improve safety of motorists across the country. Pruitt maintained that existing regulations are onerous for industry, that smaller, more fuel-efficient cars are less safe and that consumers want to buy SUVs and trucks despite their higher gas consumption and more polluting emissions.

"I hope some conservatives with a conscience will act in Washington to defend California's waiver based on these historic Republican values", he said.

"There's some tension between calling for ever-increasing fuel efficiency standards on the one hand and the effect it has on highway safety on the other hand", assistant administrator in the EPA's air office Bill Wehrum told reporters.

Public health experts and environmental groups condemned the White House proposal even before its official release, arguing that it overlooks how much money Americans would save at the pump if cars were more efficient and also squanders a chance to cut pollution from the transportation sector, which has become the nation's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions.

It also wants to stop states such as California being able to set their own standards.

Becerra said his state is already witnessing the impact of climate change with 332,000 acres burned this year from wildfires, which usually don't begin to ramp up until August.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers are supportive of the proposed changes, saying they "support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivise advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment".

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

California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, called the proposal "reckless". It might even cause auto prices to stop increasing so rapidly.

The proposal unveiled on Thursday is one of several under consideration, but is the favoured option, officials said.

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