Trump aims to revise US fuel efficiency standards
Washington, 11 August (Argus) — US president Donald Trump's administration is moving forward with plans to weaken US fuel-efficiency standards projected to lift the efficiency of cars and trucks by 40pc by 2025.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aiming to relax the fuel-economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards back to model year 2021 vehicles, broadening an earlier plan to review standards that would apply from 2022-25.
EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) yesterday kicked off a public comment period to reconsider a 13 January determination, made by former president Barack Obama's administration, that the 2022-25 standards were economically feasible. The 45-day public comment period also is soliciting views on whether the model year 2021 standards are appropriate.
"We are moving forward with an open and robust review of emissions standards, consistent with the time frame provided in our regulations," EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said.
NHTSA said last month it wants to ensure the vehicle standards are the "maximum feasible" in 2021 and subsequent years.
EPA in 2012 set the US fuel economy standards through 2025 but agreed to conduct a 'mid-term' review by April 2018 to determine whether the 2022-25 standards were economically feasible. The January 2017 determination by the EPA, a week before Trump took office, concluded the standards were achievable.
But Trump in March ordered his administration to revoke the January 2017 finding and to revive the mid-term review process.
Enforcing the proposed 2022-25 standards at levels set in 2012 would have shaved 230,000 b/d from US gasoline demand in 2025 compared with that 2021 baseline, according to projections from consultancy ClearView Energy Partners.
The fuel economy standards are a convenient target for the Trump's administration, which is keen to dismantle parts of its predecessor's climate change legacy. The current administration also portrays the fuel-economy rules as a threat to US automakers.
The automakers have lobbied to weaken the standards, which they argue have become harder to achieve. Lower gasoline and diesel prices have caused consumers to shun fuel-efficient vehicles in favor of larger trucks and sport utility vehicles.
The Auto Alliance, an industry trade group that represents General Motors, Ford, Honda, BMW and other major auto manufacturers, hailed the administration's decision to revive the mid-term review process. "This review is important to consumers nationwide who want government to rely on the facts to drive improvements in fuel economy," alliance chief executive Mitch Bainwol said.
NHTSA last month blocked a planned increase in penalties for automakers that fail to achieve the fuel-economy standards. The penalties were set to increase by about 150pc, to $14 per tenth of a mile/USG below the standards, to adjust for four decades of inflation. But NHTSA said it worried those costs might be passed along to consumers.
A revision of the 2021-25 fuel economy standards will require the federal agencies to launch a new rule-making process to overturn the 2012 decision. Environmental groups already are gearing up for a fight to defend the efficiency standards, which are projected to cut the equivalent of 8pc of annual US greenhouse gas emissions.
"Trump's reconsideration of the lifesaving vehicle tailpipe standards once again shows he cares more about corporate profits than the health and safety of our families," the Sierra Club said.
Revising the federal fuel economy standards would create a disparity with rules established by California, which has a federal waiver to establish its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks.