On Thursday, the Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency published its fuel economy and emission rollback proposal. In short, the government proposed freezing fuel economy standards at 2020 levels, which axes the current regulation to keep fuel economy numbers growing through 2026.
However, the EPA left the door open for a different final decision after a public-comment period that will commence in the weeks to come. The 2020 freeze is the “preferred alternative” to today’s current standards, which call for fuel economy levels to reach 51.4 mpg by 2025. The proposed freeze would push automakers to acheive 41.7 mpg for cars and 31.3 mpg for light trucks by 2020. Automakers have argued that the Obama administration goal of 51.4 mpg is out of touch with today’s current market conditions and was envisioned during high fuel prices and an economic downturn that saw Americans purchase smaller cars.
Today, sales of crossovers, SUVs and trucks is the norm and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers applauded the proposal.
“We applaud the president and the administration for releasing this much-anticipated proposal that includes a variety of standards for public consideration,” their joint statement said. “Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs and the environment.”
The proposal also foresees one national fuel economy standard and does away with California’s waiver to set more stringent standards. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has led to numerous automakers building “compliance cars” to fill a regulated quota for zero-emission vehicles. Think Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e among others.
Unsurprisingly, California plans to fight any effort to revoke its current right to set its own standards.
The EPA included other options aside from its preferred proposal. The EPA could keep the current standards put in place under the Obama administration, allow fuel economy standards to increase more slowly during 2020-2026 by 0.5 percent, 1 percent or 2 percent each year, or push fuel economy increases off to 2022 to give automakers more time to adjust. A final proposal looks at combining fuel economy changes with air conditioner and motor idling efficiency tests, which could net automakers MPG credits.
While automakers are pleased with the proposal, the California question will likely weigh on companies. Regulatory uncertaintly and unknowns will make product planning difficult as the state likely gears up for a legal battle, should the administration seek to revoke California’s waiver. Automakers have already begun calling for one national fuel economy standard to streamline operations and vehicle development.
The Trump administration futher argues in its proposal that even with lower standards, health will improve as new cars become more affordable. The administration foresees consumers trading in dirtier vehicles in favor of more fuel efficient vehicles should the changes go into effect. Numerous environemental and health organizations have already slammed the proposal as irresponsible.