August 18, 2018

US president Trump proposes car-mileage rollback; states sue in protest

03 August 2018, 09:22 | Edward Lowe

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Reversing harmful fuel economy standards will save money — and lives

At issue is the Trump administration's release Thursday of its anticipated proposal to halt regulations tightening vehicle fuel efficiency and pollution standards, laying the groundwork for a nationwide battle over whether the federal government can preempt California's ability to set its own requirements.

States that joined the lawsuit said the change would end up costing more money at the pump because vehicles won't go as far on a gallon of gas, and more misery for those suffering pollution-exacerbated maladies such as asthma.

Reforming Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards is a huge tax cut for American auto buyers, up to a $7,200 per vehicle. Trump's proposal lowers that to around 35 mpg by the year 2020. They've argued that the Obama-era standards Trump proposes to sweep aside are outdated, established when the USA was over-reliant on foreign oil, and that they don't reflect huge increases in US exports of crude oil and petroleum products since then.

Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the freeze would reduce highway deaths by 1,000 per year "by reducing these barriers that prevent consumers from getting into the newer, safer, cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars".

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. It claims that automakers will save billions of dollars in regulatory-related costs, such as developing more efficient vehicles.

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"More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment", said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Automakers, who had asked to be relieved of some of the mandates, have expressed misgivings about having to accommodate a patchwork of federal and state standards. "The administration's announcement that it will relax future fuel economy (CAFE) standards is good news for consumers", Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Energy and Environment, said in a statement.

He said it was the administration's goal to come up with a "50-state solution that does not necessitate pre-empting California".

The proposal also took a swipe at California, accusing the state of focusing "disproportionately" on greenhouse gas emissions at the expense of overall air quality.

Schwarzenegger's successor as governor, Jerry Brown, called the Trump administration proposals 'an assault on the health of Americans everywhere'.

One of the administration's arguments against the 2012 rule is that the cheapest ways for auto makers to achieve fuel efficiency already have been implemented.

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The Obama administration had planned to keep toughening fuel requirements through 2026, saying those and other regulations on vehicles would save 40,000 lives annually through cleaner air.

Pollution from cars, trucks and other on-road vehicles is the California's single-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to state data.

All of this could be somewhat mitigated if California can set stronger standards; at the moment, the state and federal standard are the same. The 10 other states and the District of Columbia that have adopted the tougher California guidelines would also be impacted by the White House move.

Now they're only about one-third, with less-efficient trucks and SUVS making up the rest.

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