Trump completes rollback of Obama-era vehicle fuel efficiency rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday completed a rollback of vehicle emissions standards adopted under his predecessor Barack Obama and will require 1.5% annual increases in efficiency through 2026 – far weaker than the 5% increases in the discarded rules.

FILE PHOTO: Traffic travels along a highway next to Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The announcement – condemned by environmentalists and lauded by big business – sets up a legal battle, with California and 22 other states planning to challenge the rewrite of what had been one of most ambitious U.S. policies aimed at combating climate change.

The Trump administration called the move its largest single deregulatory action and said it would will save automakers upwards of $100 billion in compliance costs. The policy reversal marks the latest step by Trump, a Republican, to erase environmental policies pursued by Obama, a Democrat.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said the Trump administration is weakening “standards that protect our health and environment from polluting contaminants emitted by cars and trucks.” The coalition of states previously challenged the Trump administration’s decision to revoke California’s authority to set its own stiff vehicle tailpipe emissions rules.

Under the Obama rules, automakers were to have averaged about 5% per year increases in fuel efficiency through 2026, but the industry lobbied Trump to weaken them. The new requirements mean the U.S. vehicle fleet will average 40.4 miles per gallon rather than 46.7 mpg under the Obama rules.

The Trump administration said the new rules will result in about 2 billion additional barrels of oil being consumed and 867 to 923 additional million metric tons of carbon dioxide being emitted and boost average consumer fuel costs by more than $1,000 per vehicle over the life of their vehicles.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the rule “strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry.”

An automotive trade group that represents General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Toyota Motors Corp and others, said that automakers need policies that support “a customer-friendly shift” toward electrified and other highly efficient technologies. “We are carefully reviewing the full breadth of this final rule to determine the extent to which it supports these priorities,” it said.


Obama’s environmental policies were intended to cut carbon emissions that drive climate change, while Trump has ditched numerous environmental regulations that his administration deemed harmful to industry and has aimed to increase the use of fossil fuels. Trump also pulled the United States out of a global climate accord and moved to reverse clean water regulations and pollution standards for coal-burning power plants.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, criticized the administration “for exploiting the cover of a pandemic to roll back the clean car standards, which are crucial public health safeguards,” referring to the coronavirus crisis.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business group, said the final rule provides a “workable path forward on a unified national program that provides regulatory certainty while strengthening fuel economy standards and continuing emissions reductions.”

The administration said the revised rules will cut the future price of new vehicles by around $1,000 and reduce traffic deaths. Environmentalists dispute the analysis that the rule will reduce traffic deaths.

The final rule acknowledges that drivers will pay more in higher fuel costs than they will save in new vehicle prices but said they will save more in overall vehicle ownership costs.

It said it will reduce up to 1.8 million crashes and lower “the auto industry’s costs to comply with the program, with a commensurate reduction in per-vehicle costs to consumers, the standards enhance the ability of the fleet to turn over to newer, cleaner and safer vehicles.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham

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