Why Trump’s looser emission standards are mixed blessing for automakers

Aug 03, 2018, 06:59
Why Trump’s looser emission standards are mixed blessing for automakers

"There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026", said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a press release. "More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to USA roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public".

The proportion of passengers killed in cars that are older than 18 years is nearly double that of cars that are newer than three years, according to a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a set of new fuel economy and emissions standards on August 2, estimated to result in 12,700 fewer traffic deaths, make passenger cars more affordable, and give automakers more freedom to create cars based on consumer preference rather than government mandate.

"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment".

More immediately, the administration believes that locking in the 2020-21 standards will save up to 1,000 lives on the road a year, because under the change it is projecting more Americans will be able to purchase newer, safer cars.

Reforming Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards is a huge tax cut for American auto buyers, up to a $7,200 per vehicle. California's standards are followed by 13 other states.

Becerra and attorneys general from 16 other states sued in May to stop the EPA from scrapping standards that would have required vehicles by 2025 to achieve 36 miles per gallon (58 kilometers per gallon) in real-world driving, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) over the existing standards.

But Andrew Wheeler, the acting chief of the EPA, told lawmakers on Wednesday that he doesn't want the federal standard to contradict states that want to require higher gas mileage. In the end, the White House approved taking a hard line, despite fears of some administration officials that their plan is based on weak evidence that will not hold up under court challenge. But as consumers spend more on gas, the costs would start to balloon. Critics said it would accelerate climate change and increase fuel prices. The impact of freezing those targets for six years, as the administration favors, would be enormous.

It argued that this policy change was necessary because the Obama administration's standards "raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles".

Environmental groups are already expressing their outrage over the plan. Currently California has a special waiver under the Clean Air Act to enact stricter rules than those at the federal level.

Along with states, the auto industry and the EPA's own advisors, the Trump administration is also attracting hefty criticism from environmental groups. Many independent experts are skeptical of these claims.

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