Obama Administration

Trump Pumps the Brakes on Obama-Era Fuel Standards

The administration says its proposal will make cars more affordable and save lives.



The Trump administration wants to freeze Obama-era requirements that force automakers to manufacture more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Under the Obama administration's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, new cars sold in the U.S. must average about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. But a joint proposal released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would freeze those standards for post-2020 models, meaning cars would only have to average about 37 mpg by 2026.

The Trump administration is also trying to stop California and other states from being able to impose their own, stricter fuel-efficiency standards. NBC reports that

by lifting the California waiver put in place in 1975 as part of the original Clean Air Act, President Donald Trump's administration is effectively neutering a potentially significant challenge to any rollback of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards. By setting levels of automotive CO2 emissions, California regulators could effectively retain higher mileage targets. The 10 other states and the District of Columbia that have adopted the tougher California guidelines would also be impacted by the White House move.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the proposal would make cars more affordable and save lives. "We are delivering on President Trump's promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards," a statement from Wheeler reads. "Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less. More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment."

Environmental groups are already expressing their outrage over the plan. "How can we justify rolling back the most effective tool we have to fix global warming?" Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America, tells USA Today. "This latest move by the Trump administration means that our cars will continue to pump billions of metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, further destabilizing the climate and sparking increasingly severe impacts of global warming," he adds.

But automakers and free market groups have hailed the proposal. "The administration's announcement that it will relax future fuel economy (CAFE) standards is good news for consumers," Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Energy and Environment, said in a statement. "It means that the federal government will have slightly less control over the kinds of cars and trucks people can buy. It might even cause car prices to stop increasing so rapidly."

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers, two trade groups that represent some of the biggest carmakers in the world, issued a joint statement expressing similar sentiments. "We applaud the president and the administration for releasing this much anticipated proposal that includes a variety of standards for public consideration," they said. "Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs and the environment."

The EPA and NHTSA are giving the public 60 days to provide feedback to the new proposal. A final rule is expected this winter.