Fuel Economy Rollback Proposal Moves Forward, California and Environmental Groups Ready for a Fight [News]

Under a new proposal, fuel economy standards would be frozen at 37 miles per gallon after 2021.

Fuel Economy Rollback Moves Forward, California and Environmental Groups Ready for a Fight
A recent proposal will rollback higher fuel economy standards. [Photo: Luke Air Force Base]

The Trump administration unveiled its proposal to weaken Obama-era fuel economy standards Thursday.

A 2012 rule imposed under the Obama administration put automakers to task to drastically improve fuel economy. By 2025, passenger cars were required to achieve an average of 54 miles per gallon. However, a joint publication by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation freezes rules requiring automakers to build greener, more fuel-efficient cars.

The new proposal, in its current form, would set the average fuel economy standard to 37 miles per gallon by 2021. As of January 2018, the average fuel economy of U.S. cars and trucks stood around 25 miles per gallon.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler penned a column published in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, prior to the announcement. Entitled “Make Cars Great Again“, they contended high fuel efficiency standard levied an undue burden on consumers. Wheeler wrote that the 2012 standards would “impose significant costs on American consumers and eliminate jobs”. Furthermore, the current proposal would “give consumers greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles, while continuing to protect the environment.”

Environmental advocacy groups and individuals argue the proposal would sharply increase greenhouse gas emissions. That, in turn, would contribute to climate change and further environmental degradation, such as air pollution.

Fuel Economy Rollback Moves Forward, California and Environmental Groups Ready for a Fight
The U.S. average fuel economy stands at about 25 miles per gallon, as of January 2018. [Photo: Flickr]

Revoking Clean Air Act Waiver

This proposal would not just lower the fuel economy standards, either. It also aims to revoke a 1970 Clean Air Act waiver granted to California to set its own, more stringent standards. Thirteen other states also follow the standards set forth by California’s emissions regulation agency, CARB (California Air Resources Board). CARB released a statement in conjunction with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Governor Jerry Brown in response to the Trump administration’s proposal.

In that statement, they expressed their strong opposition to the new standards. “At first glance, this proposal completely misrepresents costs and savigns. It also relies on bizarre assumptions about consumer behavior to make its case on safety”, said CARB Chair Mary Nichols. The EPA and Transportation Department’s proposal contends that lowering fuel economy standards will save consumers money, which will in turn allow them easier access to newer, safer cars.

As this proposal moves forward, environmentalists and consumer groups race to oppose its enactment. Barring legal challenges, the proposed rules may go into effect before the end of this year.