Triumph or Tragedy? EPA Officially Sides With Automakers on Fuel Economy Rollback

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
triumph or tragedy epa officially sides with automakers on fuel economy rollback

It looks as if the United States will find out if softened fuel economy targets will transform the domestic market into a haven for automobiles with exquisite powertrains or an antiquated dinosaur with garbage cars making use of old, pollution-friendly tech.

As predicted, the Environmental Protection Agency officially announced its intent to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards this week. On Monday, EPA head Scott Pruitt indicated his agency would begin the formal regulatory process with the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to lower the existing MPG rules.

For the most part, Pruitt avoided diving deep into the NHTSA’s past claims of larger vehicles being safer and the manufacturing pitfalls associated with rushing cutting-edge technology to market — two issues we expected to be addressed. Instead, he left the announcement rather basic by stating the Obama-era rules were “not appropriate and should be revised.” The cornerstone of the EPA’s argument is that Americans simply aren’t buying more efficient automobiles, despite their current availability, and automakers have grown concerned with meeting CAFE standards after 2022.

“The Obama administration’s determination was wrong,” Pruitt said in a statement. “Obama’s EPA cut the midterm evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.”If you recall, the Obama-era mileage rules were enacted in the midst of his first term but didn’t take effect until the 2017 model year. Practically every major manufacturer, as well as the general public, was on board at a time when gas prices had risen past $4.00 per gallon. As time went on, automakers became increasingly worried that an average cooperate fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 would be impossible. However, just days before Donald Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017, the Obama administration concluded the standards through 2025 were still attainable. Many within the Trump administration claimed this was done as an act of political sabotage.

Since 2016, much of the automotive industry lobbied to have the regulatory mandate lessened after 2022. Numerous executives discussed the matter with President Trump directly. Roughly a year ago, he agreed to have the EPA reassess the standards — with most observers expecting a rollback as the likely course of action.

With the rollback now confirmed, the next question is “by how much?” Pruitt said the agency will examine what’s feasible and intends to consult with the Department of Transportation. Regardless of the outcome, most automakers should be pleased. The same cannot be said for environmental groups, however.

In a press release published just days before the EPA’s official decision, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune condemned Pruitt as an enemy of the people.

“These roll-backs from Scott Pruitt mean Americans will pay more at the pump while our air gets dirtier, just so Pruitt can help the corporate lobbyists and polluters who give him favors and marching orders,” Brune said. “Pruitt’s decision to side with Ford and the Auto Alliance rather than the overwhelming majority of Americans who want these clean car standards should come as no surprise as this is an administrator who focuses solely on what’s best for corporate polluters, not the public. But make no mistake, we will continue fighting back to protect these standards and the health of our communities. Scott Pruitt can try and hide from the public in first class, in his soundproof office, or in the homes of corporate lobbyists, but we will be loud and clear in calling for our families and our communities to be protected.”

Meanwhile, California is prepared to wage a legal battle against the federal government over the issue. The state says it will absolutely not adhere to lessened fuel economy mandates. During Monday’s announcement, Pruitt said he is considering whether to continue allowing California to set its own vehicle emissions rules or to revoke the state’s waiver. But it doesn’t look good.

“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” he said. “The EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars.”

Join the conversation
2 of 162 comments
  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Apr 03, 2018

    So... what are the new numbers?

  • Road_pizza Road_pizza on Apr 04, 2018

    Not going to complain as IMHO Obama raised the fuel economy standard to an unreachable level that would have made pretty much every vehicle a "gas guzzler" resulting in a major windfall of gas guzzler taxes for the Feds. Follow the money, people.

  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models
  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....
  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.