EPA unveils plan to lower Obama-era federal fuel standards

Jon Wong  Roadshow

"We strongly oppose the Trump administration plan to roll back these clean-car standards, and we're going to fight to do that", Shapiro said in a conference call with the attorneys general of California, Xavier Becerra, and Massachusetts, Maura Healey. For example, Obama's EPA argued that a dual-clutch transmission would soon be widely adopted as a cost-effective way to get more miles per gallon. Yet for President Donald Trump, who's prioritized eliminating regulations, the auto rules represent a grand prize.

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 rollback would undermine efforts by California and several other states to meet commitments the USA made in the Paris agreement on climate change.

Most importantly, it also wants to strip California of its unique right to set more restrictive standards than the federal government-a deal written into the Clean Air Act because the state had been regulating smog long before the federal law existed.

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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. It would also move to end California's current power to set its own, higher standards.

In a 978-page document (pdf) released on August 2, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are also proposing to retract a waiver issued to California in 2013, which enabled the state to set its own stricter emissions standards.

But private transportation experts say there are so many factors involved that the 1,000-lives figure is questionable.

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. Why all of the sudden would the Trump administration - without the facts and the science behind them - feel like they can just yank those away? Assuming, strictly for illustration purposes, a gasoline price of three dollars per gallon, that would result in an increased annual fuel expenditure of about $318.

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The rollback has provoked outcry from environmental and health groups, as well as states who are pushing for cleaner vehicle fleets.

Thursday's rule-making proposal from the EPA and NHTSA also presents several other options for modifying the Obama targets, while recommending the proposed freeze starting in 2020, the most severe of the scenarios.

The administration also projects the efficiency rules would drive up the price of cars enough to push some buyers out of the market, leaving them to remain in older vehicles lacking life-saving new technologies like assisted braking and blind spot warning.

The plan to revise pollution rules has been in the works for more than a year.

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Besides, California - which is essentially now a foreign country - should not control the auto market and decide pollution and mileage standards for the rest of the country. But now, the state's emissions standards are in jeopardy. Before a crowd of autoworkers assembled at a decommissioned auto factory, Trump said "we're going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again". The rulemaking will set the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) and light-duty vehicle greenhouse emissions standards for light trucks and will set the greenhouse gas and mileage standards for 2021-2026.

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