A pause on tighter efficiency standards
DOT and EPA propose to freeze fuel efficiency standards for light vehicles at 2020 levels for model years 2021 through 2026
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency have proposed to call a halt to the further tightening of fuel efficiency standards for light vehicles. In a notice of proposed rulemaking, published in the Federal Register on Aug. 28, the agencies said that they propose to lock the standards for cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2021 through 2026 at the standards set for 2020. The proposed rule would set in motion a process for taking comments on possible alternatives for future standards. The agencies have already modeled several options for the standards, including the freeze on standards that they now propose.
Under federal statutes, the agencies have to set fuel efficiency standards for road vehicles. The standards are set in five-year increments.
In 2012 the Obama administration issued standards for model years 2017 and beyond, tightening the standards as part of the administration’s policies aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. However, under the terms of the appropriate statutes, at that time the administration could not enforce the standards beyond 2021.
First step in new standardsThe proposed new rule represents the first step in setting enforced standards for the 2021 to 2026 years.
The agencies say that the current stringent standards have been a factor in the rising cost of new automobiles, putting new automobiles out of reach for many American families. And, since a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that new vehicles tend to be safer than older vehicles, the ability of more people to purchase new vehicles will increase road safety as well as improving overall fuel efficiency for the vehicle fleet, the agencies say.
“There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. “More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to U.S. roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public.”
“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,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less. More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment. We value the public’s input as we engage in this process in an open, transparent manner.”
Concerns raisedThe Environmental Defense Fund has responded to the proposals by commenting that a freeze on the fuel efficiency standards could eliminate the possibility of cutting as much as 140 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, just in 2030. Moreover, the environmental organization said, by not pursuing further fuel efficiency, American companies will lose ground in the competitive global market for automobiles.
According to an Associated Press report, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, has accused the Trump administration of supporting the oil industry to the detriment of the rest of society.
“American businesses, consumers and our environment are all losers under this plan,” Carper said. “The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.”