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]

Join the conversation
6 of 15 comments
  • 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.

  • 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 .
  • Arthur Dailey Has anyone else concluded that we may have a new 'troll' on this site?