The Trump administration is rolling back fuel economy rules enacted under the Obama administration, drawing fire from environmental critics and spurring legal action to counter the move.
The new rules put forth by the White House include a reduction in annual fleetwide average mpg increases, down to just 1.5 percent from the 5 percent put forth under the Obama administration. Automakers are now required to average fleetwide mpg at 40.4 mpg by 2026, rather than the 46.7 mpg average under the previous mandate. The standards will apply to vehicles between the 2021 to 2026 model years.
The move is framed as a compromise, as the Trump administration originally called for a total freeze on fuel mileage rates between now and 2026.
The Trump administration argued that the fuel economy rollback will lower the average cost of cars for consumers, and save automakers upwards of $100 billion in compliance costs.
“These standards are reasonable, realistic and achievable, and reflect the fact that times and technologies have changed since the original rules were enacted in 2012,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a call with reporters.
Meanwhile, critics say that the lowered fuel economy standards will increase air pollution and result in greater fuel costs for customers.
“This tone-deaf, irresponsible effort will cost consumers at the pump, cost American jobs, reduce the value of U.S. vehicles globally, and further damage the environment and the air we breathe,” said executive director of Consumer Federation of America, Jack Gillis. “It’s a tragic move during these extraordinarily dire times.”
The Trump administration’s rules rollback has also resulted in lawsuits.
“We have taken previously to defend California’s waiver in the Clean Air Act,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, during a call with reporters. “And we took an action previously last year when the Trump administration was proposing to act in ways that did not follow their administrative process. So this will be the third legal action that we would take if we were to rule on this rule that was filed today.”
The news comes amid a drop in air pollution as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Various scientific studies have studied a possible link between climate change and a rise in the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.