Strict US auto emission and efficiency standards are history (updated)


As expected, the USA’s Climate-Change-Denier-In-Chief will move towards rolling back federal regulations on vehicle emissions. The change, which could undo one of President Barack Obama’s most significant environmental legacies, does not require action by Congress. Reuters reports that an announcement is expected from the Trump administration as soon as Tuesday.

The expected order will reopen the midterm review of the 2022-2025 vehicle emissions requirements, which the EPA closed on January 13th when the Obama administration decided the strict standards were feasible.

The EPA will also begin legal proceedings to revoke a waiver for California that allows the state to enforce tougher tailpipe standards, according to the New York Times.

Automakers complained that only 3.5 percent of new vehicles are able to reach the federal standards set by the EPA, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which required an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025 (compared with 36 mpg today), and estimated that the industry would have to spend $200 billion between 2012 and 2025 to comply. (The regulators, in a Midterm Evaluation issued last July, found otherwise, saying that automakers should be on track to meet 2025 clean car standards with known technologies, at the same cost, or lower, than previously estimated.)

For decades, the auto industry has fought a running battle against federal environmental (and safety) regulations. It quickly recognized a sympathetic ear – two days after the November election, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers contacted the new president-elect to urge him to “reform” federal regulation of the industry.

It remains to be seen what the impact on the US auto industry will be, but considering the amount of effort automakers have expended trying to water down the regulations, it seems likely that mainstream carmakers will scale back their plug-in offerings for the US market. Ironically, this could leave the field clear for Tesla, and cause the vanguard of automotive technology to shift from the US to countries such as Germany and China.

“The rest of the world is moving forward with electric cars. If the Trump administration goes backward, the US won’t be able to compete globally,” said Margo T. Oge, a former EPA official who was instrumental in creating the CAFE standards (and also wrote a good book on the subject).

Legal challenges are sure to follow. “If this administration goes after the California waiver, there will be an all-out brawl between Trump and California and the other states that will defend its program,” S. William Becker, Executive Director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.


Source: New York TimesReuters

  • Ross Carroll

    US Car makers will sell plenty of ICE cars within the US but they’ll find it hard to export to other countries with tighter emissions regulations. And as this article points out – it’s going to be good business for Tesla.

    But then theres weather the US population will buy cars with greater emissions? Sure there’ll be a few sales to those committed to fossil fuel and others with a mental illness but I’d hazard a guess that much of the US population has now been educated enough to not want cars spewing unlimited amounts of toxic and environment destroying gasses out of their tailpipes.

    • TBex

      You mean the US population that (technically) elected Trump? Unfortunately, even the vast majority of Clinton supporters haven’t really considered a plug-in car. They just don’t understand the tech enough.

      • Björn Svensson

        Then sir, the best way to get better environment knowledgeable people is education, not legislation. Here in Sweden we sure have some of the hardest environmental laws in the world, but we also have one of the most environment friendly population. Start in the right end, start with the schools. Teach people to sort their waste, and recycle as much as possible. Make it even so people can get a small cutback on recycling certain things, or leave their used things from home in treatment facilities for free. That way you get the population to care about the environment, because it gives them an incentive to.

        • TBex

          Education implemented how? Using legislation?

          In the US, education is largely a local affair with some State oversight. Federal (national) oversight is minimal, and even that minimal amount is responded to with extreme hostility by our Republican party, who for the most part denies the existence of man-made climate change entirely. The (very few) States under Democrat control could force local jurisdictions to treat climate/environment issues more seriously, but this would be seen as forced indoctrination by rural jurisdictions within their state, and the resulting backlash could well make things worse by overturning the State’s government on the next election.

          Things are not great here on this issue. And there is no obvious solution.

          • Björn Svensson

            I really don’t know how the situation looks in the US, but for example we swedes use waste sorted as “possible to burn” to produce heat and energy from local power plants. We actually use up more of our waste than we produce, and only 0.3% of it goes to landfills. Isn’t that something that could get implemented?

          • TBex

            Trash collection is handled by local jurisdictions, usually with contracts out to large garbage management conglomerates. Legislation forcing them to do anything like that would be seen as a burdensome regulation. For context, the Obama administration painstakingly crafted a rule to stop coal mining projects from actively dumping waste into streams, and this was overturned by the Trump administration and Republican legislature as one of the first things they did when they were in power; they bragged about saving coal jobs, which are a very small number of jobs at this point and largely weren’t saved in any meaningful way by the rule being abandoned.
            There is no common sense here. The only solution is for Democrats to start winning elections.

          • TBex

            I’ll note that policies like that COULD be implemented by municipal governments in major cities. To an extent, they are. But major cities all voted for Clinton by enormous margins (my own city voted for her 90% to Trump’s 4%). Due to the way our federalism and districting works, and to some extent because we have a decently large rural population, and because a large plurality of people simply don’t vote, this is not sufficient to solve our problems nationally.

          • Steve Withers

            In the US there are many different jurisdictions, each with its own powers, often overlapping. The US Constitution has produced a nightmare of bureaucracy and silly games where the issue at hand is held ‘hostage’ by different levels of government seeking to avoid paying for it.

            But Americans have been told this appalling, wasteful, grossly inefficient mess is the best thing ever.

            People in countries like Sweden or New Zealand or Germany can only look at the rolling disaster in America and wonder what the hell keeps people seeing what is obvious to everyone else.

            The answer? Propaganda. The old Soviet Union had nothing on the US when it came to peddling lies to maintain the status quo that works for almost no one.

        • EVman

          Good point Bjorn 🙂

        • JoeQWERTY

          Trying to extrapolate Sweden’s experience (roughly the population of Manhattan or a mid-sized US State) to our entire country is quite a bit more complex than most care to believe. Our Republic was purposefully designed to make the central Fed Gov’t weak & leave most issues to the States. Most still like this system & you’d need the support of 38 States to make any major changes, if you want to keep the rule of law rather than the rule of rules & regulations.

          • TheOtherPaul

            Tell that to California when Trump outlaws their CARB standard.

      • Steve Withers

        Funny. Nothing to understand once you learn to plug it in. There is a lot less to know about an EV then an ICE.

        • TBex

          People are used to ICEs. They’ve been filling up at the pump all their lives and know how to spot gas stations and are usually pretty sure they’ll come across one when they need one. Meanwhile, people have no idea how EVs work, how far they can go, how long they take to charge, how different EVSE levels work, where they can find chargers, how it’ll affect their electricity bill if they charge at home, how to charge if they don’t have an obvious place to charge at home, etc.

          There’s a lot to unpack and only a subset of us trying to educate the people around us. With gas prices so low, I’m not sure people are even listening.

      • Lance Pickup

        Trump voters did so for a variety of reasons that don’t necessarily overlap. I’ve asked several of my friends why they voted for Trump and they all had things they didn’t like about him but were willing to overlook some of his opinions because they were desperate to overthrow the establishment (and obviously they got conned). I know a good many Republicans, and even old-school Republicans who are supporters of the environment and EVs. While rural America does love their trucks, they also love to hunt and fish.
        I think the truth falls somewhere in between Ross’s and TBex’s prediction of how popular EVs will be in the US despite potential rollbacks of regulations.

        • TBex

          Yeah, this is about right. Trump supporters don’t all hate the environment, but they don’t seem to care or know enough to let his vehement anti-environmentalism deter them.

    • Steve Withers

      Don’t underestimate the stupidity of the mainstream American consumer. It’s actually hard to do.

  • mike e

    in 2021 the ICE fate will be sealed. why bother?

  • danwat1234

    Just rumors? Trump nor his administration has actually said they are planning on rolling back EPA MPG requirements?

  • SKPnSF

    The good news is companies like VW will no longer need to cheat on emissions testing.. They will be able to pollute away unencumbered by regulation

  • Steve Withers

    So what do ordinary people do here to defend their air and their water and the future of the climate from this ignorant fool and his party of ignorant fools?

    Thanks, GOP / Trump voters. Your stupidity comes with a very high price tag.

    • Robert

      For 32 years I worked for the second largest electric utility in the U.S. Ten years of my career was “marketing” and promoting EV technology and charging infrastructure. I worked with rate payers, fleet managers, state and local governments and so-called “environmental” nonprofits, e.g. Sierra Club, Save the Bay, etc. and those touting climate change. The buzz terms used to promote EVs was “energy security” reduce “carbon footprint”, climate change and many others all to make a guilty play on those skeptical about EVs. As the fuel provider for EVs the utility wanted to understand driving and charging habits, peak/off-peak charging demands, etc. Part of our program was to loan EVs to fleet managers and others interested in driving them to get feedback and for best applications. Each loan was for 30-60 days. Our experience is the environmental organizations logged less than others with only 50 miles over a 60 day loan period. Puzzled why more miles were not driven we received comments they “didn’t meet the driving needs” or were not interested. The approach of the those promoting EVs has to change! Bill Clinton was behind the push and adaptability of EVs in the 90’s. Unfortunately Clinton didn’t have a real plan. Government wanted to entice car buyers through tax credits, car pool access for single drivers, infrastructure installation discounts and almost everything short of a free toaster! In our state we are paying for part of these enticements through higher vehicle registration fees.
      In the article Strict US auto emission and efficiency standards are history it stated the “Obama administration decided the strict standards were feasible” for EVs. Obama and his administration may have decided it but like Clinton they didn’t have a plan. EVs are a great technology but brow beating and criticizing others is not the best approach for promoting the technology. I learned how to play the guilt game and name call those not in favor of EVs and it got us no where. Let the market determine what consumers want, not government or special interest groups.

      • Steve Withers

        The market fails when it comes to things like climate change. Fail after fail after fail.

        The problem in the US is 50 States and only two political parties who are both owned by vested interests.

        Open up that democracy with something like Proportional Representation (used by 90% of democracies) and do something about that train wreck of a Constitution. Then the market might actually be able to function.

        • TBex

          Far be it from me to defend the Constitution, but it’s responsible for fewer of our problems than you might know. We could have something approaching proportional representation if statute, not the Constitution, didn’t arbitrarily cap us at 435 House members and only one member per district.

          The permanence of the State lines and the malapportionment in the Senate, you can blame on the Constitution.

          But fundamentally, our problems come down to the Republicans existing, and a LOT of people just not bothering to show up at vote. You may think the Dems aren’t much better, but we made a hell of a lot of progress on this issue under Obama (even if we can imagine a scenario in which we made it further), so I’d disagree there.

        • Dennis Worley

          All the political opposition party’s in NZ had to combine and work hard to get proportional representation [MMP] ….its not easy but essential to save the planet!

          Now that the big 5 are using the power of veto in the UN Security council in an obviously immoral way it is a good opportunity for us all to demand change… is the time …what do you think?

      • remuliini

        Environmental organizations usually employ people who try to reduce the need for transportation as a whole, use bicycles, walk or use public transportation. And even make their living arrangements to enable that change. Therefore the low usage of the EV is understandable since they had already made bigger changes to enable the environment friendly way of transportation in their every day life. They weren’t depending on cars in the first place, unlike those that use their own car every day.

        Therefore Tesla, even if it is an inefficient vehicle compared to o
        thers, is needed to win the gasoline powered cars in performance and comfort to change the opinions about electric cars without requiring too much sacrifice.

  • TheOtherPaul

    Sales of U.S. gas vehicles outside the U.S. are history.

    • Glenn Forslin

      The reality of the world is they will continue to buy American cars and trucks. Maybe not due to the MPG they offer but they will continue to sell fine. For awhile anyway…

      • TheOtherPaul

        U.S. cars don’t sell well now. GM just sold off Opel, their European branch. American manufacturers are retrenching to the U.S. The rest of the world is quickly moving to more efficient vehicles and there are great car companies supplying them.

  • Ozzie Perch

    Funny or ironic…This momentary backtracking will end with the end of this nostalgic presidency, and U.S. carmakers will be finished.