Automakers Push Back Against Emissions, Fuel Efficiency Standards

cars on highway

by | Dec 1, 2016

cars on highwayThe EPA will stay the course on vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards that the agency says will halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The standards require automakers to double passenger cars and light trucks’ fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy yesterday proposed leaving the emissions standards for model years 2022-2025 in place. This action happened earlier than expected — the EPA was slated to reassess the fuel economy standards next year — and is part of the agency’s push to cement the Obama administration’s climate legacy and regulations before president-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.

The EPA and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration finalized the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) program in 2012. To get automakers and the United Auto Workers union to sign on to the rules, which won broad support from business, health and environmental groups, the federal agencies agreed to conduct a mid-term review, which began this summer.

As part of this review, the EPA yesterday said it has determined that automakers can meet the 2022-2025 standards at lower costs than predicted in 2012.

It also said automakers have outperformed the standards for the first four years of the program (model year 2012-2015) and manufacturers are adopting fuel efficient technologies at unprecedented rates, all while vehicle sales have increased for six consecutive years. There are more than 100 car, SUV, and pickup versions on the market today that already meet 2020 or later standards.

“It’s clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective,” McCarthy said in a statement. “This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry’s capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment.”

Automakers, on the other hand, called the EPA’s action “premature.”

“This extraordinarily and premature rush to judgment circumvents the serious analysis necessary to make sure the CAFE/GHG [corporate average fuel economy and greenhouse gas] standards appropriately balance fuel efficiency, carbon reduction, affordability and employment,” the Auto Alliance, which represents automakers, said in a statement. “The evidence is abundantly clear that with low gas prices, consumers are not choosing the cars necessary to comply with increasingly unrealistic standards.”

The EPA has until April 2018 to make a final determination on the standards. And this means the Trump administration could undo them — a likely scenario considering Trump has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate skeptic, to lead his EPA transition team. Ebell directs environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is funded by fossil fuel companies.

Despite pushback from automakers, environmental groups praised the EPA’s move and sustainable business advocacy organization Ceres said the standard will be a boon to suppliers.

“The decision to stay the course on GHG emissions standards will lock in growth for a vital manufacturing sector,” said Carol Lee Rawn, director of Ceres’ Transportation Program. “The industry has been making significant investments in fuel savings technology for years thanks to these standards. Our research shows that suppliers — which employ two-and-a-half times as many people as automakers, and who are making the bulk of investments in fuel-saving technology — stand to gain about $90 billion in increased orders through the life of the current rules.”

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