Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Trump administration proposes mileage rollback

Trump administration proposes mileage rollback

California and 18 other USA states said on Thursday they would sue to stop a Trump administration proposal to weaken Obama-era federal fuel efficiency standards, arguing the United States has an obligation to protect the environment for future generations.

Transportation experts dispute the arguments, contained in a draft of the administration's proposals prepared this summer, excerpts of which were obtained by The Associated Press.

The administration also served notice that it wants to revoke states' long-standing authority to set their own, stricter mileage standards.

The Obama administration's EPA had estimated in January 2017 that the increased standards after 2020 would save consumers an average of $1,650 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a new vehicle.

The rollback in emissions standards is problematic for automakers.

However, under the Trump administration, automakers sensed an opportunity, lobbying to roll back the fuel efficiency requirements. The Trump administration's proposal would halt that progress, meaning more pollution from vehicles, which is a health risk and contributes to climate change.

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The Transportation Department says the proposal would shrink regulatory costs for automakers by $319 billion through 2029, reducing by more than $60 billion what General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV each would have been expected to spend to comply with the Obama-era rules. It contends that freezing the mileage requirements at 2020 levels would save up to 1,000 lives per year.

"A key goal of this rule-making is to reduce the barriers to enabling Americans to purchase newer, safer, cleaner cars", they wrote.

Generally speaking, newer vehicles are more fuel-efficient than older cars, when comparing the same models.

"Allow me to be skeptical", said Giorgio Rizzoni, an engineering professor and director of the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University.

Experts say that a heavier, bigger vehicle would incur less damage in a crash with a smaller, lighter one and that fatality rates also are higher for smaller vehicles. "You want to be in the newer vehicle", he said.

"The administration's proposed freeze of these standards after 2020 reflects a denial of the solid scientific and engineering research that justifies steady, ongoing increases in vehicle efficiency as a critical, cost-effective opportunity to limit USA petroleum demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions", wrote John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute. But the later draft raises that to $2,100 and even as high as $2,700 by 2025. "The law is very clear about California's authority to set these standards, and for the EPA to try to narrow it now means they have an uphill battle", Paul Cort, an attorney with environmental group Earthjustice, told Bloomberg.

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The Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that relaxing mileage standards in the years ahead would give "the American people greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles that are cleaner for the environment".

Under the Trump administration proposal, the fleet of new vehicles would have to average roughly 30 mpg in real-world driving, and that wouldn't change through 2026.

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. At least twelve other states and the District of Columbia follow California's rules.

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

Wheeler did not elaborate. In fact, fuel economy standards end up saving motorists money, as drivers burn a lot less fuel than they otherwise would. The department cautioned that a draft doesn't capture the whole picture of the proposed regulation.

Under the Obama administration, the industry and the federal government agreed on yearly increases in fuel economy standards, and California signed on, harmonizing its rules with those of the federal government. This was done "in order to avoid the appearance of adverse safety effects", the draft stated.

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