Vehicle Emissions Standards—Now What?

The long awaited but not too surprising ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week on turning back the Obama era CAFÉ Standards seems to have confused the issue even more.

At issue: by 2025, automakers who want to sell new cars to American consumers must boost a corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) to 54.5 mpg or roughly 36 mpg in real-world driving. All this had been agreed upon between automakers and the Feds in 2012.

The Feds apparently are itching for a fight with California. EPA Chief Scott Pruitt wants to revoke ‘California waiver” to set own standards and make one national standard. The California Attorney General stated before the ruling he would sue the federal government to protect his state’s laws that impose stricter standards on vehicle emissions than nationally. In the past, 12 other states have followed California’s lead on vehicle emission standards and are likely to do so again. Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and California represent approximately one quarter of the U.S. vehicle fleet and vehicle miles traveled.

Despite the fact that they lobbied to make this change, automakers claim they are still committed to increasing the fuel economy of their cars. Automakers also feel that this might make them look bad with a huge segment of the consumer base– with fuel efficiency oriented consumers. Since automakers are now global, they will also have to build cars to suit the various markets (Europe, America, Asia) with different requirements—much more complicated and expensive for them which ultimately means for us too, the consumer.

The funny thing about all this…the same car companies that want the change in the emissions standards are the same companies that are promoting electric cars.

Environmental groups say that if the CAFÉ standards would have been left alone, the higher standards would avoid 280 million metric tons of Co2 by 2030 which is the equivalent of removing 59 million vehicles from the road and reduce air pollution which exacerbates lung diseases like asthma. Consumers would also be able to save $3,200 in fuel costs over the lifetime of these new cars.

On March 28, 2018, the American Lung Association released results from a poll that showed nearly 7 in 10 votes wanted the EPA to leave the standards in place.

Nothing has really changed yet…just that the EPA doesn’t think the current standards are appropriate. Now, the Trump Administration will have to come up with their own standards, an expensive and lengthy process that by law, needs to be based on science and not politics. Is this really the best use of taxpayer money at this time?

In the meantime, automakers and everyone else will be twiddling their thumbs in trying to figure out what they should do next.

 

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