Trump Re-Opens Review of Fuel Economy Standards
Review Keeps Promise Made to Industry Under Obama Administration
Just before his departure from the White House, former president Barack Obama’s administration attempted to lock in a fuel economy ruling that would make future standards essentially permanent, targeting 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Before the last-minute lockdown attempt, a mid-term review was promised to automakers that would allow for discussion and potential adjustment of the standards based on technological progress and market conditions. The tentative date for that review was around April 2018. Trump’s new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt has said he intends to honor the original agreement for the review and will meet with automakers and other affected parties to determine if adjustments to the goals are needed, Bloomberg reports.
Another subsequent development that impacts the feasibility of meeting the standards is sustained high demand for light trucks and SUVs, resulting in 2016 model cars and trucks falling short of fleet-wide fuel economy targets for the first time in more than a decade. Because it predates the formation of the federal EPA by three years, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) retains the right to set its own pollution and fuel economy targets. The Trump administration says it has no current plans to challenge CARB’s authority, but that the option remains on the table.
Environmental activists are predictably upset by the opening of the standards review, which they assumed was safe with the rules lockdown prior to Trump’s inauguration. However, government regulators, including CARB’s Mary Nichols, say they plan on actively participating in the review process. Nichols says the state is committed to promoting the long-term electrification of transportation through incentives and regulations.