The Trump administration’s ongoing endeavor to replace existing fuel economy mandates with something easier on automakers is a hot topic, but the issue has more angles than a rhombicosidodecahedron. One that took a backseat during much of our coverage is where the oil industry fits into all of this. We figured it was pretty obvious because, every time we heard the word “rollback,” our minds automatically added the cash register sound effect.
Car manufacturers aggressively lobbied for more lax corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards since Donald Trump took office. But so has the oil industry; it just wasn’t doing so quite as openly. So what exactly does the federal government’s fuel economy rollback mean for Big Oil? Don’t act as if you didn’t already know.
After months of discussion, circulating drafts, and arguing with the State of California, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration formally unveiled their plan to rewrite the existing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules and replace them with something far less stringent.
The proposal would freeze the presiding standards in 2020 under the “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks” plan, which is a mouthful.
It also moves to revoke California’s authority to set its own mandates, as predicted. The Golden State made it clear that it wants to maintain the Obama-era limits. However, the proposal includes a section emphasizing the importance of a single national standard, saying it would seek to withdraw the waiver granted to California in 2013.
“Attempting to solve climate change, even in part, through the Section 209 waiver provision is fundamentally different from that section’s original purpose of addressing smog-related air quality problems,” reads the proposal. “When California was merely trying to solve its air quality issues, there was a relatively-straightforward technology solution to the problems, implementation of which did not affect how consumers lived and drove.”
The new acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, has jackknifed former EPA head Scott Pruitt’s decision to quit enforcing the strict sales limits imposed on glider trucks.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, they’re basically new heavy commercial trucks that use old powertrains. Advocates argue that using refurbished engines and transmissions save business owners loads of cash and promote recycling, since the internals would likely end up in a scrapyard. However, many complain that glider trucks simply exist to circumvent emissions regulations.
During President Obama’s tenure, the EPA said that if gliders were allowed through 2025, they would make up a scant five percent of the freight vehicles on the road — but would account for one third of all nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions from the heavy truck fleet. A crackdown was inevitable.
Andrew Wheeler, the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the United States needs a single standard for fuel efficiency for cars and trucks on Tuesday. It’s a sentiment shared by Mary Nichols, head of California Air Resources Board, but it’s likely to put the two at odds. Wheeler said the pair shared that singular goal based off a meeting held last week, but California isn’t seeking the same benchmarks as the current administration.
The state objects to the EPA’s plan to weaken Obama-era efficiency targets, and is currently in the midst of a political and legal battle with the agency. However, Wheeler confirmed that, under his watch, the group would continue seeking a “50-state solution.”
Following Andrew Wheeler’s appointment as acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he extended an invitation to the California Air Resources Board to discuss emission regulations — a matter which former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt seemed less inclined to discuss with the state.
Mary Nichols, chairman of the board, said Wheeler reached out to state officials and the pair agreed to hold a meeting in Washington. It’s a slight easing of tensions in the cold war between D.C. and Sacramento.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who spearheaded the Trump administration’s initiative to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards for light vehicles, has resigned. Even after assuming the position, Pruitt remained a tough sell as head of the EPA. His stance on climate change was uncharacteristic of any modern-day environmentalist and he seemed utterly bent on corporate deregulation to bolster profits and stimulate the economy.
Then came a flurry of scandals stemming from frivolous spending habits, improper use of authority, and possible business ties that would inhibit his ability to act in an unbiased manner. Numerous federal investigations were launched into these matters.
While a number of the impropriety claims came from political opponents actively hunting for gaps in his armor, let’s face it, Pruitt hasn’t been making things particularly difficult for them.
Despite the growing animosity, both California and the Trump administration are still willing to discuss the country’s changing emission regulations. The state is currently heading a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming it “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in overturning the previous administration’s decision to maintain Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.
While the proposals issued by the current administration will eventually see those targets rolled back, a final decision has not been made. The White House claims it wants to maintain an open dialogue with the Golden State, hoping to reach an agreeable solution, but the California Air Resources Board has argued it doesn’t seem to be acting on those assertions. Meanwhile, EPA head Scott Pruitt maintains that the state will not dictate federal fueling rules as automakers beg the government to do everything in its power to ensure a singular national mandate.
It’s an ugly situation, which makes news of a new round of meetings all the more surprising.
The Trump administration has enacted phase two of its plan to revise Obama-era rules designed to cut pollution from vehicle emissions. In a proposal sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its intention to rescind the California waiver that separates it from the federal standards the state uses to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.
Since allowing California to set its own emission standards would effective split the country’s auto market, the EPA has been clear that its ideal solution would be to cut a deal with the Golden State. Agency head Scott Pruitt previously said California “shouldn’t and can’t dictate [fueling regulations] to the rest of the country,” but acted in a manner that suggested a compromised could be reached.
This was followed by a lawsuit filed by 17 U.S. states, along with the California governor’s office, California attorney general, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), alleging that the EPA had “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in its decision to roll back the previous administration’s decision. While the odds are good that the Trump administration wasn’t ever interested in bending to California’s more stringent pollution policies, this was likely the point of no return — squashing any hope for meaningful negotiations.
Several science advisers for the Environmental Protection Agency claim the agency has ignored its own research in order to rationalize the push to relax corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) targets.
A group within the Science Advisory Board has recommended reviewing the EPA’s justifications for the intended rollbacks, including the agency’s conclusion that Obama-era auto efficiency requirements must be changed because they are too stringent. It’s hoping to take the agency to task and force it to show evidence that upholds is proposal.
While EPA head Scott Pruitt sides with the President and automotive industry by indicating the current standards are too strict, very little scientific research has been cited to support the claim. In fact, the revision seems to hinge mainly on the belief that automakers might not be able to adhere to the standards approved by the Obama administration in its final days. “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,” Pruitt said in April.
Despite pressuring Donald Trump to lower corporate fuel economy mandates since practically day one of his presidency, automakers are now urging caution. The U.S. Transportation Department has drafted a proposal that would freeze vehicle requirements at 2020 levels through 2026, the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead administrator made a public case for rolling back mileage targets, and the White House seems ready to help car companies lower the bar.
Automakers seem to have won, so why the change of heart?
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL is not the inline-six-powered, aerodynamic brick it was in years past. For the current generation model — now the only Wrangler built in Toledo — Jeep’s Jeepiest Jeep saw a host of improvements designed to lighten its curb weight, reduce aerodynamic drag, and cover more ground on a gallon of gas.
The model launched with only the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 under its hood, aided in its fuel-sipping mission by standard stop/start and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Depending on the model and tranny, combined fuel economy rose 2 mpg between the old JK and newer JL models, and highway mileage rose as much as 4 mpg.
Finally, we now have EPA figures for the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder Wrangler.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt spent the majority of his Thursday being raked over the coals by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee before a second (even uglier) exchange with the House Appropriations subcommittee. The majority of the time was spent addressing concerns surrounding Pruitt’s expenditures — things like unnecessary first-class travel, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, and his 24-hour security team. There were also discussions about alleged death threats against Pruitt and EPA staff, his overall conduct, and even a little bit on environmental policy.
Those discussions, however, saw some subcommittee members accuse Pruitt of championing the profits of oil companies and automakers over the wellbeing of the planet. The EPA head spent the duration of Thursday defending his actions, including planned regulatory rollbacks on fuel economy. He also supported the automotive industry’s proposal to abolish 87 octane and replace it with 95.
As ugly as the day was for Pruitt, Republicans occasionally hopped on the mic to gently support him. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said, “I think the greatest sin you’ve done is, you’ve actually done what President Trump ran on.”
Now that the Environmental Protection Agency has officially confirmed its intent to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the opposition has kicked things into high gear, mobilizing for the coming battle.
In one corner you have the White House and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seeking lowered emission mandates. They claim the Obama administration created unfeasible fueling regulations, noting that the public regularly opts for less-efficient trucks and SUVs and largely ignores the purchase of electric vehicles. In the other corner you have a handful of Senate Democrats, environmental groups, and a bunch of blue states led by California lawmakers. They all say the preexisting rules are not only feasible, but essential for the good of the nation.
If you’re wondering which side of the highly partisan issue is correct, we’d argue it has almost everything to do with your point of view. Both sides can make a fairly strong case, and will do just that as the battle heats up. Fortunately, this may not end up being a legitimate civil war — if the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is to be believed.
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.”
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.
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- Jwee I think it is short sighted and detrimental to the brand. The company should be generous to its locked-in user base, treating them as a resource, not a revenue stream.This is what builds any good relationship, generosity to the other partner. Apple does with their products. My iPhone is 5 years old, but I keep getting the latest and greatest updates for free, which makes me feel valued as a customer and adds actual value. When it is time for a new phone, Apple past treatment towards me certainly plays into my decisions (as did BMW's - so long subscription extracting pigs, its been a great 20 years). Imagine how much good will and love (and good press) Polestar would get from their user base if they gave them all a "68 fresh horses" update overnight, for free. Brand loyalty would soar (provided their car is capable).
- ToolGuy If I had some space I would offer $800 and let the vehicle sit at my place as is. Then when anyone ever asked me, "Have you ever considered owning a VW?" I would say "Yes."
- ToolGuy In the example in the linked article an automated parking spot costs roughly 3% of the purchase price of the property. If I were buying such a property, I would likely purchase two parking spots to go with it, and I'm being completely serious.(Speaking of ownership vs. subscription, the $150 monthly maintenance fee would torque me off a lot more than the initial acquisition cost.)
- ToolGuy "which will be returned as refunds to citizens of the state" - kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund? Make the amount high enough and I will gladly move to California to take advantage (my family came close to moving there when I was a teen, and oodles of people have moved from CA to my state, so I'm happy to return the favor).Note to California: You probably do not want me as a citizen.
- ToolGuy Nice torque figure.