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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

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