MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Trump Administration Announces Rollback of Obama-Era Vehicle Emissions Standards

The new rules will likely lead to cheaper, safer vehicles.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittChris Kleponis/CNP / Polaris/NewscomIn a widely expected move, the Trump Administration announced today that it would be rolling back stringent fuel efficiency standards imposed by former President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Under the Obama-era rules, makers of cars and light trucks were expected to raise their average fleet-wide fuel economy to 54 miles per gallon by 2025. The current fleetwide average is 38.3 miles per gallon.

In a press release, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that the Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE standards that the Obama administration imposed "made assumptions about the standards that didn't comport with reality, and set the standards too high."

Pruitt also hinted that a waiver granted to California to impose its own even higher vehicle emissions standards was endangered, saying that "cooperative federalism doesn't mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country." California's waiver is being "re-examined" according to the press release.

This weakening of CAFE standards has generated predictable backlash from Democratic lawmakers.

"The EPA is willfully ignoring the fact that these emission standards are working. Cars are becoming more fuel efficient and consumers are saving money at the pump," tweeted Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"The Trump Administration's assault on clean car standards risks our ability to protect our children's health, tackle climate change, and save hardworking Americans money," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who also threatened legal action to maintain California's own higher standards.

Free market voices, conversely, cheered the move while pointing out the downsides that the current CAFE standards have had.

"CAFE's lethal effects on vehicle crashworthiness were documented by analysts and a federal appeals court years ago," said the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Sam Kazman in a statement. "We hope that the Trump Administration will finally take account of those effects and start to liberalize this program."

One way automobile manufacturers have satisfied CAFE standards over the years is by reducing the weight and size of their vehicles. This Kazman argues, and federal agencies concede, makes vehicles less safe in crashes, leading to a greater number of automobile fatalities.

Julian Morris of the Reason Foundation—the nonprofit which publishes this website—has similarly argued that CAFE standards either increase price for consumers or otherwise require them to settle for vehicles that do not meet all their preferences.

"Since more fuel-efficient vehicles are more expensive, this means consumers are forced either to pay more for a vehicle with all the other attributes they want (power, speed, luxury, etc.), or purchase vehicles that lack some of those attributes. Either way, consumers are harmed by CAFE standards," wrote Morris in a recent report.

What the new CAFE standards will be has yet to be determined. Pruitt's press release said only that his agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will begin developing new, lower CAFE and greenhouse gas emissions standards.

Photo Credit: Chris Kleponis/CNP / Polaris/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Jerryskids||

    What the new CAFE standards will be has yet to be determined. Pruitt's press release said only that his agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will begin developing new, lower CAFE and greenhouse gas emissions standards.

    And when you ask them, "How much should we give?", they only answer, "More, more, more".

    At what point is the EPA going to conclude that their mandate to clean up the environment has been satisfied and they all pack up their bags and go home?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Only when each and every EPA employee has been declared to be an Emperor of the Universe, and has a bigger office than ALL the rest of them! AND all of the rest of us!

    ONLY then, can we expect them all to "...pack up their bags and go home."

  • Get lit||

    Bullshit. Private businesses are making us eat the pollution they create everyday and maybe we do benefit down the line from cheaper goods but I damn well know these polluters benefit directly from being allowed to poison our environment and certain groups of people probably suffer the health consequences of the pollution more directly than others. I see it everyday.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Sure you do. We believe you.

  • Get lit||

    I live next to sugar canes and when they burn them every year thick black smoke is everyway. I live next to an interstate so we get the fumes from large trucks transporting goods. I live next to a river and sometimes awoken by the fog horns and can smell the diesel engines. I live between chemical plants and when it rains the whole neighborhood smells like toxic death. You're just not paying attention.

  • JWatts||

    Have you considered moving?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    So your immediate surroundings include sugar cane fields, a river (a big one if it supports large commercial vessels), an interstate, and chemical plants? That sounds like some very odd zoning going on. Which makes me skeptical of your claims.

    Where exactly DO you live?

  • The Iconoclast||

    More use of aluminum, etc, moves more of the vehicle's lifetime energy usage to the manufacturing side, which is not counted against the vehicle's fuel efficiency. I expect a long legal fight with activist judges ruling in favor of California whether it makes sense constitutionally or not.

    Gov't, especially President Obama back in the day, seems to think they can just set a number and manufacturers can magically reach it.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's called "nudging your constituents".

  • The Iconoclast||

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... guided and channeled by the government.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    CAFE doesn't require the automakers to meet the fuel efficiency standards. They always have the option of going out of business or switching to a different industry.

  • TheWay1||

    From my understanding, the number was not magically reached. It was made with input from the industry.

    As they were, they were divided in 4 categories. For example, the large light truck category such as Ford F150 requires a 23 MPG sticker(30 MPG CAFE), currently, a 2018 Ford F150 is 21-22 MPG sticker. Aka, you only need a 1 MPG improvement in 7 years to reach the requirement.

    If there was an issue, that issue would be that there should be more categories. As the results of having 4 categories have inadvertently made the compact trucks disappear.

    Other than that, the requirements are pretty easily attainable by the industry (they are the ones who set them after all).

    As for judges ruling in favor of California, probably because it actually makes constitutional sense. A lot of people think that people's health is somehow free. But it isn't, pollution decreases our livespans, it causes us suffering and it costs us money to pay for getting treatment. And with the rising health costs, it is getting more and more expensive.

    If someone drives by me in a car that spews toxins into my lungs, how is that any different than them assaulting me?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    A new car spews almost nothing. You're talking about older vehicles, and most like vehicles in a poor state of tune. Going forward, the proposed changes will have negligee effects on emissions. However, they will raise the transaction price of a new vehicle enough to slow sales of new cars. As the real key to lowering air pollution from cars is not to tighten emissions, but to lessen the weighted average age of cars on the road, this will have a negative impact on air quality.

    The best thing for air quality is to leave manufacturers alone so prices stay steady or decrease. New emissions technology is merely expensive at this point, with little beneficial value.

  • TheWay1||

    While the pollution cars spewing out has decreased dramatically, it is far from negligible. This becomes even more the case in cities where there are a ton of cars in traffic. (During idling, engines operate less efficiently, thus spewing more pollution. Of course start-stop technology and hybrid technology has helped that)

    There is still plenty of room to improve emissions, especially making the above mentioned technologies standard would see a massive improvement. Part of economics is economies of scale, so unless the technology is adopted in mass scale, the cost ends up higher. But once scaled, the cost would drop significantly. Not to mention the savings in fuel costs would offset the upfront cost. (and I'm not even counting the health costs)

    As for getting rid of old cars, sure but that is a much harder thing to pull off. Especially since used cars tend to be used by the poor. And other than state emission testing, it is hard to control what cars are on the road once they are actually there. And even then, people still find ways around that.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    And then next week he'll ban the combustion engine.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    "The EPA is willfully ignoring the fact that these emission standards are working. Cars are becoming more fuel efficient and consumers are saving money at the pump," tweeted Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.).

    At the pump.

    Of course, I'd need to drive it for 30 years to make up the difference in cost of purchase.

    Jesus, what a disingenuous cunt!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Environmentalism is a political movement, not a scientifical one. Once the maths and the ROIs get involved... yeah.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I think you mean religious movement. At the very least, cultish.

  • Get lit||

    When you pollute you're passing the costs onto others and cars pollute.

  • JWatts||

    True, but of course, when you Eat you pollute.

  • Episteme||

    I love reading all the panicking headlines about this in news sources...when all they're doing in changing the target number that automakers are supposed to be hitting in 2025 (and that none have been anywhere near hitting).

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Why don't they pass a law that medical researchers need to cure cancer by 2025?

  • Rich||

    Or that physicists need to invent a time machine by 2020 so medical researchers can cure cancer by 2015?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    What do you think personal transportation would look like today if car companies had been allowed to spend their R&D money on market-driven programs for the last 50 years?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • ThomasD||

    The faux hot riveting is a bit over the top, don't you think?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Or this.....

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YJ2dZE_i6mQ

    A good way to get around town.

  • TheWay1||

    Actually, they are pretty close to hitting those targets. The confusion lies in the fact that they are using 1975 CAFE numbers instead of modern EPA 5 cycle numbers. The other confusion lies in the fact that the average is category based, not exactly full fleet based. For example, the 2018 Ford F150 is 1 MPG away from hitting its requirements.

  • Rich||

    makers of cars and light trucks were expected to raise their average fleet-wide fuel economy to 54 miles per gallon by 2025.

    "Announcing the revolutionary 2025 spring-powered 'Boing'. Simply wind it up as needed, and enjoy the luxurious fuel economy of 60 MPG."

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Microhybrids and Mazda's new HCCI-ish engine get you into the 40s. 50s were always insane unless you think a prius is a performance vehicle.

  • colorblindkid||

    Even Norway, with their super strict rules, have cars that are around 50 mpg, and they are all smaller than a Yaris. I am going there in a few weeks and a Ford Fiesta is their third largest class of car. All the cars are also manual. Norway also gets all of their wealth from selling oil to other countries, which subsidizes their generous welfare state and heavily regulated economy.

  • Sevo||

    Liking small cars (and not being conversant it the particulars) I rented a Yaris.
    I'm 6', 200#. In 25 miles the cramps from bending my legs were really obnoxious; I turned it in for something usable at the destination.
    Are all those folks 5"-2'?

  • TheWay1||

    Just an fyi, 40 MPG sticker(epa 5 cycle test) is 56 mpg CAFE 1975.

  • MSimon||

    greenhouse gas emissions standards.

    So they are finally going to do something about water vapor?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    No one said "major greenhouse gases". We're just sticking to the minor ones.

  • MSimon||

    OK. Plant food then.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    The hotter it gets, the more water evaporates. We'll have a runaway greenhouse effect in this unstable system that's been around for the last 11,700 years. And if we don't fix our water vapor problem by next week, we'll reach a tipping point from which there will be no return.

  • buybuydandavis||

    You know what lots of water vapor looks like in the sky?
    Clouds

    Which reflect sunlight back out into space

    The Earth used to have much more CO2 in the atmosphere. That didn't "runaway" to Venus style heating. It actually turned into the *current* Ice Age.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    You're wasting your breath Dan. All leftists hear is heresy towards their AGW Gospels.

  • Doug Heffernan||

    "Pruitt .. saying that cooperative federalism doesn't mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country."

    Wonder if Pruitt feels the same way when it comes to Texas dictating the standard for the rest of the country when it comes to sprinkling in religious dogma into science and history textbooks.

    Even with the rollback, the rest of the global auto market is likely to head in the other direction. And that's where most of the growth is going to be.

    But maybe if the US gives up, some other countries will too. Probably not china though.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    So, do you believe that if the market is heading that way, but it isn't mandated legally, that US companies won't move towards better fuel economy?

  • Tony||

    What's the worry? The market is headed that way because evil government science has informed the global public of the utility in higher fuel economy standards. Let's make it a fun game and see who can get to the best outcomes first. If the market does it, governments wouldn't have to do anything.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|4.2.18 @ 10:07PM|#
    "What's the worry? The market is headed that way because evil government science has informed the global public of the utility in higher fuel economy standards. Let's make it a fun game and see who can get to the best outcomes first. If the market does it, governments wouldn't have to do anything."
    Did you think there was a point in there, scumbag?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Fuck, Tony is right. I say we stop with MPG arguments. Just say all electric cars must have 1000 mile ranges by 2020 and has will be outlawed thereafter. What could go wrong?

  • H. Farnham||

    You've got your super-villains confused. Betsy Devoss is the one trying to kill us all with her evil Christian agenda in the schools. Pruitt is the one trying to do this to everybody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6QLMUwVBeY

  • Sevo||

    "Wonder if Pruitt feels the same way when it comes to Texas dictating the standard for the rest of the country when it comes to sprinkling in religious dogma into science and history textbooks."
    Pulled that right our of your ass, did you?
    I don't think Pruitt has much to say about religious dogma, idiot.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    The problem comes down to one simple fact; it is not possible to coexist with any type of Marxism, including the bastard child progressivism. Progressives are incapable of tolerating non progressives.

  • cc2||

    An engineer with a major auto company told me that you cannot get good acceleration, safety, good gas mileage, and meet all the multiple pollution guidelines at the same time. Pick 2 or 3 to optimize, the others conflict.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Sounds like a kulak. The supreme people's council will know how to deal with kulaks.

  • ||

    I've been explained that too. It's impossible to meet ALL customer demands and government regulations.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    If none of your competitors can meet customer demands either, then that's not a problem because the customers have no alternative. Just for god's sake keep the government happy.

  • Eidde||

    Tickle its tummy and give it treats. Preferably souls.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Wrong thread, Eddie. The discussion about pacifying Crusty is elsewhere.

  • Sevo||

    cc2|4.2.18 @ 9:24PM|#
    "An engineer with a major auto company told me that you cannot get good acceleration, safety, good gas mileage, and meet all the multiple pollution guidelines at the same time. Pick 2 or 3 to optimize, the others conflict."

    This is the case always, given current technology.
    I know lefty dimbulbs like Tony fantasize that the general increase in efficiency is due to government prodding rather than a market desire for those qualities, but you only have to see the car ads in vid or print to see they are selling to the market.
    Most of the recent (mandated) increase in efficiency has pretty much tracked tech advances, so, like (most) of the recent M/W increases, hasn't caused a mess.
    But you only need look back at the first real "We'll Make 'Em Install 100 MPG Carburetors!" to see the damage idiot regulators can do.

  • Sevo||

    "But you only need look back at the first real "We'll Make 'Em Install 100 MPG Carburetors!" to see the damage idiot regulators can do."

    That was the 1970s. The cars' 'tech" (read: Bandaids) promptly disintegrated, leaving the owner with a car which could not pass smog, requiring a new car build (which caused more pollution than the alternative), or someone who couldn't afford a new car doing a black-market work-around to keep that smog-factory on the road.
    Thanks, EPA! Your imbecilic regs kept you employed for far longer than any of you deserved!

  • Mickey Rat||

    Which was why VW fudged their diesel vehicle tests.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Sure you can, but it costs more. Look at cars like the BMW 330i. 14 second quarter mile time, has seen 40 mpg on highway test loops, handles well, reasonably roomy, good safety ratings, and meets emissions. However a well optioned example at a good out the door price will be close to $45k.

  • TheWay1||

    "An engineer with a major auto company told me that you cannot get good acceleration, safety, good gas mileage, and meet all the multiple pollution guidelines at the same time. Pick 2 or 3 to optimize, the others conflict."

    Sure you can, it is called a plugin hybrid. You get fast acceleration due to the motor, safety due to not much changes other than addition of a battery and a motor, gas mileage due to the battery and regenerative braking and pollution guidelines due to the better gas mileage.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "The EPA is willfully ignoring the fact that these emission standards are working. Cars are becoming more fuel efficient and consumers are saving money at the pump," tweeted Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.).

    Concern about the price consumers pay for gas from the senator of the state with the 4th highest gas taxes in the country? Hmmmmm......

  • Tony||

    She means they're buying less gas.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Gee- ya think? Thanks, Captain Obvious.

    But don't you think it's curious that, while ruling over a state with such high gas taxes, she's claiming that emission standards are working to save drivers money as though that's (saving drivers money) an important thing?

    I bet you don't.

  • Tony||

    But she's saying they're saving money because they're buying less gas. ...

  • Sevo||

    Tony|4.2.18 @ 10:32PM|#
    "But she's saying they're saving money because they're buying less gas. ..."

    Ignoring the fact that the car cost thousands of dollars more, while saving pennies at the gas pump.
    And fucking idiots like you think that's just great!

  • Elias Fakaname||

    It costs a great deal more to get these cars to pollute 5% less. And really, the targeted emissions are only those at a cold start. Once the engine in near operational temperature, the emissions are almost nonexistent, as long as the car is new or properly tuned. Which is the way to effectively keep emissions low, through keeping existing cars tuned properly. But lefties are dummies, so there is all kinds of expensive nonsense. Which raises prices, helped into to keep newer, safer, cleaner cars on dealer lots, and off the road.

    If we can keep prices down on new cars, more people will buy them. Which will definitely.lower tailpipe emissions. In spite of the best efforts of idiot environmentalists.

  • TheWay1||

    Actually, they are 5th highest. That said, their taxes are only 41.7 cents per gallon. In comparison, every 1 MPG improvement is 10.632 cents saved (based on US average gas prices for today). So if your car can get only 4 MPG better, it would pay for the taxes.

  • JeremyR||

    The thing is though, so many people don't drive cars or light trucks, they drive big ass trucks or SUVs which have lower standards. This would have just pushed more people toward the latter, since a 54 mpg car would be like a Yugo

  • Tony||

    Someone who is unjustifiably skeptical of the very science underpinning the value of fuel emissions standards is not the correct person to be making such judgments. Scott Pruitt should stick to taking naps in lobbyists' condos.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    And who determines whether his skepticism is justifiable?

  • Tony||

    Any remotely sophisticated human being.

  • Sevo||

    "Any remotely sophisticated human being."
    So no one you can recommend?
    Got it.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Tony, you don't know the first thing about automobile emissions. So, as usual, you should shut the fuck up.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Tony, I know more about cars, emissions, and science than you could over conceive. We are way past the point of diminishing returns. The key is to get the newer technology into the hands fconsumers.

  • ||

    Good.

    Erase as much as wasshisname as possible.

    Make him gone enough.

  • Tony||

    Your presidents suck dude.

  • Eidde||

    Which Presidents' names sound like porn pseudonyms?

    Andrew Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, Millard Fillmore.

  • Tony||

    Now that you mention it, they all do.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    There's also Franklin Pierce, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and even Herbert Hoover, if you know what I mean.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Actually the latest rumor is that Obama did

    Though we're still waiting on the CNN special on it

  • Tony||

    Lies are different from facts!

  • Sevo||

    Tony|4.2.18 @ 11:23PM|#
    "Lies are different from facts!"

    Yes, and you and that lying piece of shit Obama never learned to post facts.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Obama wanted one of his professors to fuck him. It was revealed in an Esquire article.

  • Eidde||

    So the PM links went the way of all flesh.

    But there are so many Abraham Lincoln articles!

    What the author overlooks about Lincoln's complex religiousity is the fact that many of his key *supporters* were (in modern terms) fundie goobers who thought Lincoln was leading a divine crusade to reunite the country and abolish slavery.

    And in fairness to the goobers, they would have recommended against Lincoln going to the theater on Good Friday.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Pruitt also hinted that a waiver granted to California to impose its own even higher vehicle emissions standards was endangered, saying that "cooperative federalism doesn't mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country." California's waiver is being "re-examined" according to the press release"

    Arbitrary waivers for one state should be undone.

    Who has the pen and the phone now?

  • TheWay1||

    Any state can apply for a waver. It just means the state is managing their own stuff instead of the federal government. And this applies to things other than environment.

    California is just the only state that applies for the waver. While 11 other states do a hybrid approach where they follow the policies of California while still having the EPA manage stuff. (Supplemental policy instead of full self managing)

  • Eidde||

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    God bless the Unitarians. A good group of people.

  • NoVaNick||

    The ecofascists' endgame goes beyond merely killing the ICE-they want to ban any and all forms of private auto ownership, to be replaced by shared AVs. Get ready to see coastal cities start to designate car-free areas, and raise parking and registration fees to the point where it becomes prohibitively expensive to own a car. I also expect to see car insurance go through the roof. It won't happen tomorrow, and maybe not even in 20 years, but that's where we are going folks.

  • NoVaNick||

    The ecofascists' endgame goes beyond merely killing the ICE-they want to ban any and all forms of private auto ownership, to be replaced by shared AVs. Get ready to see coastal cities start to designate car-free areas, and raise parking and registration fees to the point where it becomes prohibitively expensive to own a car. I also expect to see car insurance go through the roof. It won't happen tomorrow, and maybe not even in 20 years, but that's where we are going folks.

  • Jerryskids||

    The ecofascists endgame is the extermination of the human race.

  • SIV||

    Fuckin' Cadillacs come with 4 bangers as the base motor, the "big engine" is a V-6. A luxury marque should offer 8 ,12 and 16 cylinder engines. A well -engineered high output 6 might be acceptable in a relatively lightweight luxury sports coupe or roadster. Perhaps a smooth and silent forced induction 6 in an "entry level" model, but a fuckin' 4 banger?

  • Sevo||

    16s do not package or balance easily in most automotive configurations.
    12s are a wonder, and they are available, but regulation has forced them into the higher market area.
    V8s are still available; Camaros, Mustangs and whatever Chrysler offers are there.

  • SIV||

    Yeah, you can buy a short cab Ram truck with a hemi V-8 for under $30k otd or a Charger sedan for a little bit more but a Caddy V-8 is well above $50k before you option it up. Some models in that price range don't even offer a V-8.

    Your best "luxury" bargain at half a century grand is a 'vette from a high volume dealer. Want a luxo V-8 you might find a Chrysler 300, an SUV, or go late-model used. for something. It's a cryin' shame.

  • Sevo||

    Here's a tissue.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I'm stoked they're looking at eliminating CARB's waiver. That will make those fucking diaper babies positively apoplectic.

  • Get lit||

    Poverty shouldn't mean you're sujected to greater risks while traveling on the roadways to a point. If safety was more than a useful talking point to overturn mandated emission reductions we would look into restricting the type of vehicles people are allowed to wield on the roadways.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online