Friday, 17 August, 2018

EPA unveils plan to lower Obama-era federal fuel standards

Sherry Houston | 03 August, 2018, 18:15

Under the Obama-era plan, the target was 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Some of the states poised to join the suit, including Pennsylvania, adhere to California's stricter standards.

As for California's waiver, which was granted in 2013, the proposal says that the EPA will exercise its right to revoke that waiver since it finds the state's standards to be "arbitrary and capricious", unnecessary and inconsistent with parts of the Clean Air Act.

The Trump administration has moved to weaken United States vehicle emissions standards and has set up a major confrontation with California by scrapping its ability to enact stricter pollution standards and mandate the sale of electric cars.

The state has struggled to rein in vehicle pollution.

Those states have said they'll sue to keep their emissions standards on the books. It would also worsen air quality problems in Southern California and other areas where officials are already struggling to clean smog and ease rates of asthma and other illnesses. With today's release of the Administration's proposals, it's time for substantive negotiations to begin.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the plan before any action is taken. At the moment, the state standard and the national one are the same-but if they diverged, automakers could end up making multiple versions of each auto to sell in different parts of the U.S. The Trump administration wants to take away California's right to set higher standards. 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.

"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment". Assuming, strictly for illustration purposes, a gasoline price of three dollars per gallon, that would result in an increased annual fuel expenditure of about $318.

Using an open-source, peer-reviewed digital tool called the Energy Policy Simulator, Energy Innovation modeled the impact of the proposed changes. The firm projects the policy would cost the US economy $457 billion and cause 13,000 deaths by 2050, as air quality suffers.

What were the Obama administration guidelines? In scrapping it, the administration is relying on disputed modeling that projects vehicles that get more miles to the gallon would lead motorists to drive more frequently, thus increasing the number of traffic fatalities. The logic is that because new-car prices will be lower, "more consumers will be able to afford newer and safer vehicles".

General Motors said in a statement that it wants to work "with all parties to achieve one national 50-state program", adding that it was committed to "continually improving fuel economy and our commitment to an all-electric future". According to the EPA's proposal, "Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks", the agency would amend the rules to retain standards for model year 2020. "These arguments are not new".

But consumer groups and experts said the messaging around the proposal is deceptive, completely ignoring the cost savings on gas in more efficient cars - especially if gas prices increase.

At a May meeting in the White House, auto firms appealed to Trump to tap the brakes on the administration's aggressive rollback plan.

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