Trump Fuel Economy Rollback in Final Review

U.S. regulators have submitted for final review their plan to dial down future fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles.


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U.S. regulators have submitted for final review their plan to dial down future fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles.

Reuters says the new rules, which are now being analyzed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, could be announced within two months.

How Good is Good Enough?

The standards were developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which writes pollution regulations, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sets fuel economy targets.

Some 18 months in the making, the revised rules would replace regulations adopted in 2012 by EPA and NHTSA during the Obama administration. Those targets require carmakers to hike their average new-car fuel economy in 5% annual increases between the 2021 and 2026 model years to a laboratory-calculated level of nearly 47 mpg. Last year’s fleet averaged about 25 mpg.

The Trump administration rejected those goals, which were aimed at lowering emissions of carbon dioxide, as unrealistic. Carmakers generally agreed.

The original Trump solution was to simply freeze CO2 and fuel economy standards at current levels. Environmentalists were aghast. Carmakers rushed to clarify their position, saying they hope to moderate the pace of regulatory pressure, not eliminate it entirely.

The New Deal

Details about the final EPA-NHTSA rules haven’t been made public. But reports last year suggested the standards are likely to require annual fuel economy gains of 1.5% through 2026.

Doing so would result in average new-car fuel efficiency of 37 mpg by the end of 2026, or about 10 mpg less than the Obama-era regulations.

The difference would buy more time for the venerable piston engine, which still has some fuel efficiency tricks up its sleeve. But the lower regulatory targets also will make electric cars a tougher sell in the American market.

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