The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a set of new fuel economy and emissions standards on August 2, estimated to result in 12,700 fewer traffic deaths, make passenger cars more affordable, and give automakers more freedom to create cars based on consumer preference rather than government mandate. That ignores the fact that more fuel-efficient vehicles are cheaper to operate since drivers have to buy less gas. California and 16 other states already have filed suit to block any change in the fuel efficiency rules. "Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs and the environment".
In 2012, former President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency had released guidelines that would work to "cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, reducing emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program". The administration's assertion that lighter, more fuel efficient cars are more risky has been disputed by transport experts.
The proposal represents an abrupt reversal of the findings that the government reached under Obama, when regulators argued that requiring more fuel efficient vehicles would improve public health, combat climate change and save consumers money without compromising safety. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club said today, "Rolling back the Clean Car Standards is one of the most significant attacks on clean air and climate action in history, and Donald Trump is making it clear his mantra is pollution over everything".
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The attorneys general of 20 states, including California, pledged to sue the administration.
"There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026", said DOT Secretary Elaine Chao in a press release on Thursday.
But private transportation experts say there are so many factors involved that the 1,000-lives figure is questionable.
"If the President thinks he can win this fight, he's out of his mind". Automakers, who had asked to be relieved of some of the mandates, have expressed misgivings about having to accommodate a patchwork of federal and state standards.
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The rollback would undermine efforts by California and several other states to meet commitments the USA made in the Paris agreement on climate change.
A drawn-out legal battle over the standards could hurt the auto industry as it tries to plan for coming model years. "Maine wants cleaner cars nationwide because upwind pollution matters so much to us, so we've done our part by using the best clean auto standards available".
The administration also proposed a withdrawal of California's Clean Air Act preemption waiver.
"The National Auto Dealers Association estimates the federal standards demanded by California will add $3,000 to the cost of new motor vehicles by 2025, potentially pricing millions of low-income households out of the market for new cars", Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), said in astatement.
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In 2012, when the standards were first adopted, cars were about 50 per cent of new-vehicle sales.