As the rest of the world moves to tighten car efficiency standards and promote the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, the administration of US President Donald Trump took a decisive step in the other direction on Thursday by eviscerating the emissions standards created by former president Barack Obama, according to the New York Times.
The decision to weaken the the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards was announced by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, and is part of a much broader campaign to unravel environmental regulations. In a press release, the two agencies said that the rollback would protect jobs, prevent car accidents, and create more affordable vehicles.
Under the new rules, car efficiency standards will be lowered from 54.5 miles per gallon of gasoline to 37 miles, set to take effect in 2021, and states will lose the right to enact stricter standards on their own. The standard is currently 30.2 miles per gallon.
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“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” Andrew Wheeler, EPA Acting Administrator, said in a statement.
A diverse range of critics came out against the plan, and questioned the administration’s rationale.
Attorneys general from 19 states said they would sue the federal government if the rules are implemented. In particular, states will sue for the right to enact stricter emissions standards within state lines. If that happens, it will essentially create two different car markets in the US, according to the Times.
Environmental groups also roundly criticized the plan, arguing that the Obama-era standards would lead to fewer car accidents, more jobs, a stronger economy, and a much healthier environment.
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“The Trump administration is driving our auto future in reverse,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “The clean car standards are already saving our families billions at the pump, supporting nearly 300,000 American jobs, and cleaning up dangerous tailpipe pollution.”
“We need to speed up that progress, not slide backward,” she added. “Let’s keep our eyes on the road — and not let Trump and his dirty deputies run us into the ditch.”
Even the Auto Alliance and Global Automakers, the seeming beneficiaries of the plan, called for a stricter version.
“Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
In recent years, brands such as Volvo and Volkswagen have vowed to make their fleets fully electric.
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The CAFE standards were initially developed after years of rigorous analysis by career scientists at the EPA, according to the New Yorker, and were meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
Transportation accounts for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US and 20% of emissions throughout the world.
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If the CAFE standards had been allowed to take effect, oil consumption would have fallen by 12 billion gallons and carbon dioxide emissions would have dropped by 6 billion tons, according to EPA projections.
The US exerts enormous sway on the global car market — buying some 17.5 million cars per year — and environmental advocates worry that by backtracking, other countries will feel inspired to develop less rigorous emissions standards.
“This proposal will substantially increase pollution and will cost the average American family hundreds of dollars a year extra for gas,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement. “It’s a proposal that attacks the states’ right to protect people from dangerous pollution, one that no one – not the American public, not the states, not even most automakers – really wants, and one that’s being presented to the public under the false and easily discredited guise of improving public safety.”