Report: Trump Administration Seeks to Soften Fuel Economy Rollback

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
report trump administration seeks to soften fuel economy rollback

One of the issues underpinning the gas war has been an inability for either side to compromise. Initially, it was the current administration complaining about California wanting special treatment. But the coastal state was quick to return fire, claiming that the White House never offered a valid compromise.

Eventually California extended an olive branch by suggesting it would postpone existing fuel economy mandates by one year, while attempting to lock automakers in via written commitments. But federal regulators said a singular national standard was needed, suggesting California had overstepped its authority by trying to rope in manufacturers.

However, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler came back this fall with claims of a revised plan that could actually be more stringent than originally presumed. While still a rollback, the new draft was said to close several loopholes the industry could use to continue their polluting ways. “In some of the out years, we’re actually more restrictive on CO2 emissions than the Obama proposal was,” Wheeler said.

New reports now suggest the EPA’s words are more than just noise.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is actually planning to require automakers to improve fuel economy and pare tailpipe emissions after 2020. While slight, the improvements are a major change from the original proposal, which aimed at freezing efficiency requirements through 2026. The outlet’s sources said officials have tentatively agreed to the changes.

Officials now plan to require 1.5-percent annual increases in the fleet-wide efficiency of new automobiles. The EPA has indicated other changes could also be incoming, with the final draft looking slightly different than the first rollback proposal from 2018.

One item that will not be changed, however, is a provision to strip California of its ability to set its own vehicle emission standards. Unpopular with California (and about 20 other states), the DOT and EPA see no alternative — believing a national solution to be the only one that will be sustainable.

Bloomberg reported on the vast amount of criticism being thrown at the plan:

While the plan amounts to a less-aggressive rollback, environmental and consumer advocates warned it would still produce negative outcomes. Consumer Reports estimated consumers would spend $3,200 more in fuel costs under the plan than under the current standards for a model year 2026 vehicle, for example.

“A rollback on the scale reported would result in millions of tons of additional carbon pollution in the air and higher costs for drivers at the pump,” Luke Tonachel, director for clean cars and clean fuels at the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement. “This plan is absurd and calling it anything other than a disaster for our climate is ridiculous.”

Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, said a federal rule cutting emissions 1.5 [percent] per year isn’t enough for the state to meet its air quality and climate change goals.

“The rumored federal proposal would compromise our ability to meet federal air quality standards and would directly impact public health,” he said in an email.

We think automakers just want predictable and universal standards they can adhere to through the next few development cycles. They’ve been playing both sides to avoid getting the governmental stink eye, but their ability to do so is shrinking as the clock ticks down to the final rollback proposal. Many manufacturers have gone all-in on supporting the measure to revoke California’s fuel waiver.

The rest appears to be a product of bias or an inability to see the bigger picture. Even Consumer Reports’ claims that shoppers would spend more in annual fuel costs was unacceptably narrow in scope. It simply penned the rollback as a “gas tax,” effectively ignoring the taxes paid to stimulate EV sales (by lowering purchasing cost) and present-day consumer trends (buying bigger vehicles). We’ve already ragged on it, if you’re interested in the finer points.

That said, we didn’t know if the original rollback proposal was the best play to make, either. It seemed wholly disinterested in promoting corporate efficiencies, giving the brunt of its attention to the economy instead. However, the changes being made appear to address some of the ecological concerns. A bit of compromise seems wise, even if it’s not going to be enough to make the opposition happy.

[Image: Nithid Memanee/Shutterstock]

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  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Nov 03, 2019

    Why are average people against clean air and water?

    • See 3 previous
    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Nov 04, 2019

      @JD-Shifty There are traces of rocket fuel in the water you're already drinking. Not to mention traces of SSRIs, cocaine, and woman's birth control. Where is your green god now? You already should be purifying your water. You already should be purifying your air. Nothing the White House or the PRK wants is going to change the need for both right now. You want to save the world? Hit the third world with 100 MIRV nuclear warheads.

  • FAS FAS on Nov 04, 2019

    I's assuming that what JD-Shifty meant, is that no matter where on the planet or on the political map you are.....Its hard to argue that there is one single thing more important than "clean air and water" Having said that, it boggles the mind of anyone who agrees with the above why anyone would be ok with ANY rollback or backward motion on regulations which deal with same.

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.