EPA Readies Rollback of Fuel Efficiency Regulations

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
epa readies rollback of fuel efficiency regulations

Rumors are flooding in that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will sign a declaration upending the Obama-era fuel economy regulations any day now. New details have emerged claiming Pruitt plans to visit a Chevrolet dealership in Virginia to publicly condemn the existing 2025 targets as unrealistic. Reportedly scheduled for next Tuesday, the EPA head will be accompanied by groups representing both automakers and car dealers.

California is going to be furious.

According to Reuters, administration officials and several automotive representatives have verified the event as legitimate. However, they noted that the specific revisions to the existing fuel economy standards and emissions limits have yet to be decided. A rollback is guaranteed but nobody seems to have decided by how much.

The EPA mentioned a detailed proposal for the changes could arrive in late May or June, while the Transportation Department is pushing for a tighter timeline. Regardless, an agency spokesperson said Pruitt will autograph something that will open the rules for alteration on April 1st.

Existing rules seek an average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, something automakers initially agreed to but later expressed concerns over once Donald Trump took office in 2017. Meanwhile, sales-weighted data has shown no meaningful improvement in U.S. average economy for several years. While the onus of that rests with consumers more than it does manufacturers, it pokes holes in the argument that higher regulatory standards will have a positive environmental impact.

That said, softer targets are unlikely to be any different. But the practical increase of fuel efficiency may have had more to do with the economy than President Obama’s regulatory mandates. Signed into law in 2011, the existing fuel rules came at a time when gas prices were higher and the average family income was lower.

Leaving corporate MPG targets at the mercy of the market could be risky, and not just because America could find itself unprepared for a sudden spike in oil prices. California and several other states have said they will adhere to Obama-era rules if national standards are lowered. If the rollback occurs, which is practically a guarantee, the Golden State is likely to take legal action against the federal government.

Pruitt weighed in on California’s fueling stance earlier this month. “California is not the arbiter of these issues,” he said, “ shouldn’t and can’t dictate to the rest of the country what these levels are going to be.”

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 01, 2018

    Big Al--You need to reread some of my comments. I never stated that the US should compete in all manufacturing nor do I agree with the President's trade policy. You are using left and right labels against me when in reality I am neither. I am more pragmatic. I thought you were more solid than to revert to calling someone a leftist or right wing. I do believe that the US needs to make something that the World will buy, you cannot survive as a nation if you are just importing and not exporting. You don't have to have perfectly balanced trade but large trade deficits in the long run are harmful to any country. If you think those positions are extreme then that is your problem.

    • See 3 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 03, 2018

      @Big Al: "The problems you have raised is occurring worldwide, it seems many in the US and even on this site consider it an “us against them, winner takes all” mindset. "I have also had my job reduced, outsourced and even a computer take over most of my systems fault finding knowledge. "You must adapt and move on. The problem is many are sitting back expecting others or the government to fix their woes. And in the Western World I would rate the US as one of the worst countries in helping it’s citizens in re-education and welfare." I see you've chosen to ignore the rest of my comment where I clearly stated that I'm in better shape now than I was then. I didn't give up when I lost those jobs; I moved on. My point is that far too many DO give up. They want it all handed to them on a platter (or at the street corner.) The problem is, what support they might have had to get back on their feet is being taken away by our current administration. Said administration is doing everything it can to completely destroy its own political party as a result.

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Apr 02, 2018

    My $.02. CAFE is, has been, and always will be an incredibly stupid means of influencing consumer behavior. Because ultimately it is forcing manufacturers to make something that their customers do not particularly want. Because while most everyone pays lip service to "better fuel economy", most people don't really care much at all. As has been pointed out, once you get to 30mpg or so it is all majorly diminishing returns. Just another instance of supply-side economics not working. If you want to change consumer behavior, it needs to be done on the demand side. Make people WANT to drive more efficient vehicles. The only effective way I know of to do that is through taxation, either by taxing engine power or taxing fuel. Or taxing/regulating CO2 emissions, which is ultimately the same thing as fuel economy. The Europeans have done this VERY effectively. They have a very healthy auto market where you can buy just about anything you want. And companies can sell just about anything they want. But if you as a consumer want something that uses a lot of fuel, you are going to PAY for it, upfront, annually, and at the gas pump. And in turn, this has given those countries the money to invest in infrastructure such that there is less need for cars. I don't think the US can go to quite the same extreme due to geography if nothing else, but we surely are too far in the other direction IMHO. It makes absolutely zero sense to me to have a consumer tax regime that makes it so that the best selling vehicles on the road are monsterous pickup trucks, but at the same time force manufacturers to somehow make their entire fleet meet a standard that is much higher than what people want to buy can achieve. Of course consumer taxation of sufficient level to change behavior is a non-starter in the US. Finally, California does have a unique problem in the geography of So. Cal. making it an absolute necessity for them to clamp down on smog production. And I think other states have the right to choose to follow that. If you don't like it, vote your local politicians who supported adopting those standards out of office - we are a representative democracy last time I checked. Though for the most part, since the US does not currently regulate CO2 emissions of cars to my knowledge, fuel economy and emissions regulations should be mostly two separate things. Scrap CAFE in favor of demand-side measures, and keep the smog emissions (NoX and hydrocarbons) in place. Demand side measures encouraging fuel economy take care of CO2, because they are two sides of the same coin anyway.

    • See 12 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Apr 04, 2018

      @Vulpine Yep it's official. You're insane. Nothing doubled in price in '84.. click on the other page, there's more. Inflation hit everything equal, but my dad bought a new Nissan Hard Body in '89 for just under $6,000 base manual with the better bumper and A/C included. Off the rails much?

  • MaintenanceCosts This truck could go plenty farther (assuming good basic maintenance) but the price:remaining life ratio still makes me gag a bit. The used truck market remains overheated and the price is probably market correct, but these are the sort of prices that would make me prefer to buy a new truck if I could afford it.
  • Jeff S I ignore the commercials. Never owned a Mazda but I would definitely look at one and seriously consider it. I would take a Honda, Toyota, or Mazda over any German vehicle at least they are long lasting, reliable, and don't cost an arm and a leg to maintain.
  • GregLocock The predictable hysteria and repetition of talking points in the meeja is quite funny. it does not divide Oxford into six zones. it restricts access at 6 locations , one on each road, to reduce congestion in the town centre. Florence, which faces the same issue, traffic and narrow historic streets, lined with historic buildings, simply closed the entire town centre off. Don't see anybody whining about that.
  • Jeff S I have rented from Hertz before and never encountered this but if I had I would sue them. Would not want a gun pointed at me and thrown in jail for renting a car.
  • Arthur Dailey I did use a service pre COVID to get the pricing that the dealers were alleged to have paid the manufacturer. It also provided 'quotes' from multiple dealers .
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