USA states to sue Trump administration over freezing fuel efficiency requirements

EPA moves to scrap Obama-era clean car rules and sets up fight with California

In an analysis of the proposed freeze, the researchers at the Rhodium Group noted that future oil prices would play a major role in determining the overall effect of the relaxed standards, since higher oil prices push consumers into smaller, more fuel-efficient cars (though of course, modern crossovers are quickly closing the fuel-economy gap on sedans).

The affordability argument ignores thousands of dollars of saving in fuel costs for each driver over the life of a vehicle, opponents of the rollbacks said.

California governor Jerry Brown took to Twitter to voice his dissent with the EPA's plan.

Trump's move concerns a deal originally struck between Obama and many leading automakers in 2011 that envisioned a series of gradual increases through 2025, when average fuel economy would rise to 54.5 miles per gallon (4.3 litres per 100 kilometres).

The Trump administration today formally proposed weakening Obama-era clean vehicle rules and pre-empting states from setting tougher standards.

Some Republican lawmakers supported the mileage freeze, but environmental groups and many states assailed it.

California joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in suing the EPA in May, asking the court to review the EPA's proposed actions.

It's going to result in dirtier air and cost communities all across the country more money in dealing with the cost of climate change.

Consumer groups that want to keep the standard have said consumers would save more than that by paying less for gas if automakers were required to meet the 2025 standard - an average 50 mpg. Yet for President Donald Trump, who's prioritized eliminating regulations, the auto rules represent a grand prize.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks at the 2018 Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention Friday
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks at the 2018 Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention Friday

"We'll use every tool available to block the Trump administration's U-turn on fuel efficiency", the Massachusetts Democrat said, adding later, "We won't stop until this misguided change is put in the rearview mirror".

Jeff Alson, a former policy adviser for the EPA office of transportation and air quality in Ann Arbor, has worked on vehicle emissions for 40 years at the agency. "In my opinion the only way they got there was, they knew what kind of results they were told to get and they cooked the books to get that result". Electric cars and trucks still account for a tiny fraction of those sold, and driver preference for SUVs, along with relatively low gas prices, have inhibited progress there.

As vehicle manufacturers boosted fuel economy across their fleets, incremental improvements have become more costly and complicated while returns have diminished, the agencies say.

The argument remained on the EPA's website Thursday.

It argued that this policy change was necessary because the Obama administration's standards "raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles". That would price many buyers out of the new-vehicle market, forcing them to drive older, less-safe vehicles that pollute more, the administration says.

Transportation experts question the reasoning behind the proposal.

"I'm sure you've all heard the big news that we're going to work on the CAFE standards, so you can make cars in America again", Trumptold a crowd in Detroit on March 15, 2017.

"For an administration that is happy to let states set their own rules when it comes to weakening environmental protection, it's the height of hypocrisy to deny California and a dozen other states their right to protect their people from global warming", Becker said in a statement.

A drawn-out legal battle over the standards could hurt the auto industry as it tries to plan for coming model years. It says keeping the Obama-era standards in place would increase the cost of an average vehicle by $2,340, prompting consumers to hold back in buying newer, safer vehicles and end up aging the nation's fleet of cars on the road. "Kicking California bullies out of the fuel economy playground will expand consumer choice, while making new cars more affordable".

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