Published: Fri, August 03, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

U.S. eyes freeze of fuel efficiency rules

U.S. eyes freeze of fuel efficiency rules

The Trump administration has moved to loosen fuel efficiency regulations, setting up a fight with a coalition of states led by California. "But if not, I'd remind them that California has won this battle before".

Administration officials said the Obama rules added US$2,340 to the cost of owning a new auto and that more Americans have been priced out of the market for new vehicles. The standards called for automakers to reach a fleet average of about 54 miles per gallons by 2025; the new standard is about 37 miles per gallon after 2021.

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". But the proposal still must be approved, and it's already being challenged by 13 states that have their own stricter emissions goals.

California has had the authority under the half-century-old Clean Air Act to set its own mileage standards to combat its chronic smog problem.

The administration must gather feedback on the proposal before it is finalized, a process that could take months and that could be further delayed by lawsuits.

Democrats opposed to the Trump administration's proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards have limited options to fight back in the halls and floor of Congress, but the one option they do have comes straight from the GOP deregulatory playbook. In addition, it wants to do away with California's exemption to set its own standards. That will be the strategy for the fuel efficiency freeze.

However, his administration's report on Thursday projects that relaxing mileage standards would cost 60,000 auto jobs by 2030.

Officials said the aim of the new plan is to help with hurdles automakers face in producing fuel-efficient vehicles, which, on average, cost consumers $35,000 more.

Gina McCarthy, thes EPA administrator under Obama, said the reversal of these standards "run contrary to sound science and the law".

Most automakers haven't had time to react to the proposal, but Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said the "proposed rule recognizes that assumptions made in 2012 about consumer preferences have fundamentally shifted in 2018". Sales did begin to tail off at the end of 2017.

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.

Eighteen states - including New York, New Jersey and California - sued the Trump administration in May to stop it from rolling back the fuel standards, arguing that they should be able to develop regulations to curb pollution. It notes that light trucks past year made up 65 percent of total USA vehicle sales, up from 50 percent in 2012, when oil prices peaked.

Not lost on many opponents of the freeze is the fact that nations around the world are experiencing extreme weather - triple-digit heat waves in Japan, wildfires in Sweden, Greece and California, and drought in South Africa - that scientists are directly tying to climate change, brought about in significant part by burning fossil fuels.

The argument may prove a tough sell in court, where attorneys for states and environmental groups will come armed with a wealth of data undermining it. All have Democratic attorneys general. "This proposed rollback puts all that at risk".

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