In yet another rollback of Obama-era policies, the Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed to limit fuel efficiency standards for US vehicle emissions. The deal made under the Obama administration with automakers in 2012 requires cars and light trucks to have at least 46 mpg by 2026. Removing that deal will keep standards at the 2020 level of only 32 mpg.
The EPA has issued this move on the claim that the removal will have “negligible environmental impacts on air quality”. It also claimed that it will result in up to thousands fewer deaths annually, though there is much controversy as to whether lighter, more fuel-efficient cars are actually at all more dangerous.
“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 Andrew Wheeler, who took over after Scott Pruitt was ousted as the head of the EPA. “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.”
California, among 12 other states and Washington DC, have higher emission standards than the national standards under the Clean Air Act. The reversal will put those standards at risk. In response, several states have voiced their strong opposition to the move and expressed intentions to sue the EPA if the reversal goes through. Attorneys general from New York, Virginia and North Carolina announced jointly that “The administration’s proposal to weaken these rules will cause the American people to breathe dirtier air and pay higher prices at the pump. We are prepared to go to court to put the brakes on this reckless and illegal plan.”
As the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, the transport sector plays a huge part in driving human-made climate change. While the Obama-era deal was expected to save roughly 6 billion tons of greenhouse gases by 2026 (and $1.7 trillion in fuel), eliminating the policy will produce an extra 120 million tons of carbon emissions by 2030, according to The Union of Concerned Scientists.
“It’s an attack on the climate, consumers, state governments and the future viability of America’s auto industry,” said Ken Kimmell, president of UCS. “The Trump administration has decided to force America’s drivers to spend more at the gas pump, burn millions more barrels of oil, and put us on a path to greater harm from climate change. The administration’s proposal goes beyond a simple rollback. This is a demolition, and there’s no scientific or technological justification for it.”