Meg Thomson

EPA to Overturn Regulations Requiring Cars to Meet Minimum Fuel Economy Standards

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Photo: Burst

In 2012, the Obama Administration set up historic regulations that required automakers to increase their cars’ and light-duty trucks’ fuel economy ratings to 54.5 mpg by the year 2025. This week, the Trump Administration announced they plan to overturn those requirements in favor of a lower fuel economy minimum, a move we saw coming a few months ago.

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made the official announcement on April 2, citing the regulations as being too strict. This is considered somewhat of a win for automakers, who have expressed their concerns in the past. Right now, transportation — including cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes — is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions at 27%.

Robert Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at Harvard, pointed to the impact this change will have on environmental efforts throughout the globe. “This is certainly a big deal,” he told The New York Times. “The result will be more gas-guzzling vehicles on the road, greater total gasoline consumption, and a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions.”

In his announcement, Scott Pruitt spoke of plans to rework the federal regulations, a move pointed directly at the state of California. “EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of new cars.”

Officials in California, known for their strict stance on emissions, are in an uproar about the EPA’s decision. California Governor Jerry Brown expressed his disapproval of the plan, citing it was a “belated April Fool’s Day trick.” He was outright in his disapproval: “This cynical and meretricious abuse of power will poison our air and jeopardize the health of all Americans.”

California has already been leading the charge in reducing fuel emissions at the state level. The state has been working for decades to put forward legislation that would allow them to set their own regulations for air emissions, and they’ve been able to do just that. However, the Trump Administration’s current plan threatens to bring regulations back to the federal level. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to working with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard,” said Scott Pruitt.

Many automakers have been turning to electric vehicles in an effort to meet the Obama-era regulations. NPR host and automotive journalist Sonari Glinton explained that consumer interests are conflicting. “The number one thing that consumers want improved on their vehicles is fuel efficiency,” he said. “However, at the same time, people are buying more and more SUVs.” In an effort to combat this conflict, many automakers are turning to electric vehicles to both meet fuel efficiency regulations and consumer demands. “What the standards are saying is that we are going to need to have far more electric cars on the road,” said Glinton. “If these fuel standards are relaxed, many people in the industry see the electric car dying yet again.”

The Trump Administration said they plan to set new fuel efficiency regulations later on.

News Sources: The New York TimesThe White House, Los Angeles Times, NPR (here and here), Environmental Protection Agency