Confirming a leak from yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed not to change average fleet fuel economy standards at their 2020 levels from 2021 through 2026. The EPA estimates that the new rules would result in a 0.003 degree Celsius difference in the global climate by the year 2100, compared with the Obama-era mandate. Currently California has a special waiver under the Clean Air Act to enact stricter rules than those at the federal level.
The proposed rule acknowledges that it would result in a 2 percent to 3 percent increase in fuel consumption, the equivalent of about half a million barrels of oil per day, and a small increase in global average temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
All of this could be somewhat mitigated if California can set stronger standards; at the moment, the state and federal standard are the same. The 54 mile per gallon rule might sound high, but when automakers factor in government credits and other loop holes, experts said that the average will be closer to 36 miles per gallon.
While the administration supports freezing the mileage standards after 2020, it will seek public comment now on that proposal and a range of others, including leaving the tighter, Obama administration fuel standards in place.
"I feel like we have a very good and strong case", state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
Other states that joined in the lawsuit were: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
One of the reasons given for the change was to reduce costs for consumers, allowing them to upgrade to newer, safer vehicles.
The Obama-era rules also drove auto prices higher, since prior estimates fell short of what incremental improvements to fuel efficiency actually cost. "It means that the federal government will have slightly less control over the kinds of cars and trucks people can buy". Electric cars and trucks still account for a tiny fraction of those sold, and driver preference for SUVs, along with relatively low gas prices, have inhibited progress there. "Americans shouldn't be denied the ability to purchase a vehicle or truck that meets their needs".
Chart showing EPA fuel-efficiency targets. Under the Trump administration's preferred proposal, that would drop to 29.6 miles per gallon, a reduction in nationwide fuel efficiency of about 21 percent.
The Transportation Department says the proposal would shrink regulatory costs for automakers by $319 billion through 2029, reducing by more than $60 billion what General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles each would have been expected to spend to comply with the Obama-era rules. In their summary of the notice, the administration argues the proposal will prevent "thousands of on-road fatalities and injuries" because it will not force automakers to use lighter materials to improve efficiency. Those rules were to take effect after 2020.