Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Trump administration unveils plan to weaken Obama-era emissions standards for cars

EPA moves to scrap Obama-era clean car rules and sets up fight with California Dear America, chill out. New standards will save lives and not ruin the world
Kim Reese | 03 August, 2018, 18:13

"CA DOJ will use every legal tool at its disposal to defend today's national standards and reaffirm the facts and science behind them".

But there's enough lead time, with their freezing it at 2020 levels. "We urge California and the federal government to find a common-sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America's drivers".

More than a dozen states follow California's standards, amounting to about 40 per cent of the country's new-vehicle market.

If the proposed rule becomes final, it could roil the auto industry as it prepares for new model years and weaken one of the federal government's chief weapons against climate change - regulating emissions from cars and other vehicles.

But the proposal still must be approved, and it's already being challenged by 13 states that have their own stricter emissions goals.

The EPA and NHTSA are giving the public 60 days to provide feedback to the new proposal.

"They don't offer any meaningful example of what has changed so dramatically" to warrant the reversal, said Jeff Alson, who until this spring was a senior engineer in the EPA's transportation and air quality office.

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The proposal would freeze an effort by the Obama administration meant to promote auto fuel efficiency and curb tailpipe emissions of climate-changing pollutants. And it says that compared to the 2012 rules, the new proposal would raise United States fuel consumption by half a million barrels per day (that's between two and three percent daily). 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.

"Our current analysis shows that we get substantial improvement in vehicle highway safety, and you know when you monetize the improvement in highway safety and compare that to the monetized value of environmental health and safety control, the highway safety numbers swamp the environmental numbers", William Wehrum, EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, told reporters on Thursday.

In a 978-page document (pdf) released on August 2, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are also proposing to retract a waiver issued to California in 2013, which enabled the state to set its own stricter emissions standards.

The administration said the freeze would boost US oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels of oil a day by the 2030s, and argued it would prevent up to 1,000 traffic fatalities per year by reducing the price of new vehicles and so prompting people to buy newer, safer vehicles more quickly.

Trump in March 2017 announced his administration would be reopening a review of the Obama automobile rules that he and some automakers said was unfairly cut short by Obama's EPA.

One of the reasons given for the change was to reduce costs for consumers, allowing them to upgrade to newer, safer vehicles. 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. "More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment".

"There is no precedent for revoking California's waiver", said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign of the Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy group in Washington.

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