President Donald Trump is expected to announce on Wednesday plans that could roll back fuel efficiency standards set by his predecessor—a move climate groups say would be “cruel” and “myopic” and amount to “one of the biggest corporate handouts to the fossil fuel industry.”
Trump is set to make the announcement regarding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reopening rules on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions at an event in Detroit with automakers.
The Washington Post explains: “In 2012, automakers and federal regulators agreed to achieve an average 54.4 mpg across its entire fleet by the year 2025.” The agreement came with “the condition that, by April 2018, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would perform a thorough review of rules and tweak them if they were too expensive or impossible to meet,” the Huffington Post adds.
The EPA finalized the rules this January (a year ahead of schedule, as Wired noted) in its midterm review, with the agency saying that “automakers are well positioned to meet the standards at lower costs than previously estimated.”
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The Union of Concerned Scientists has also noted (pdf) that that the standards “will reduce America’s oil consumption, save consumers money at the gas pump, and protect public health and the environment by curbing global warming pollution. They will also help spur investments in new automotive technology, creating jobs and helping sustain the recovery of the American auto industry.”
Trump’s announcement, the Associated Press writes, would put the “midterm review back on track so that officials can spend another year studying the issue before setting new standards in 2018.” That would threaten to “undo efficiency gains that will provide consumers $98 billion in total net benefits,” as Climate Progress adds.
Trump in the White House and a fossil fuel ally at the helm of the EPA may have been seen as openings to scrap the stricter standards. According to NPR,
The Post also wrote that a senior, unnamed “White House official said that poor sales of electric vehicles and consumers’ preference for larger vehicles need to be considered in the review, echoing almost word-for-word an argument that the auto industry has raised in recent months.”
But rolling back the standards, said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, risks “endangering the health of our children and families by abolishing life-saving vehicle emissions protections that cut down on dangerous smog pollution and asthma attacks.”
“The historic vehicle efficiency standards set by the Obama administration are a proven success with widespread support,” he continued, referring to recent polling (pdf). “Not only are our cars and trucks more efficient than ever before, but U.S. auto sales have reached record highs since these safeguards were put in place. It’s easy to see why: these standards help clean up our climate and benefit our pocketbooks. These standards are improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles across all classes, spurring innovation of electric vehicles and other technologies, cutting oil use, reducing emissions, and saving drivers money in fueling costs.”
350.org executive director May Boeve similarly criticized the potential rollback, saying, “Trump is about to sign one of the biggest corporate handouts to the fossil fuel industry. Cutting back fuel economy standards will drive up costs for the public while green-lighting new fleets of gas-guzzlers our climate can’t afford.”
“The auto industry could create more jobs by investing further in fuel efficiency and the new technologies that make it possible. This is another dud from the Trump era aimed at lining the pockets of fossil fuel CEOs while hurting workers and our future,” Boeve continued.
“Shame on” Trump, added David J. Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s climate program, “and shame on the automakers egging on his dirty-air plans with the knowledge that he’ll likely grant whatever they ask.”