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By Michael Bastasch
President Donald Trump heads to Michigan Wednesday to announce he’s reconsidering the Obama administration’s last-minute fuel efficiency regulations.
Trump will order the EPA to redo a mid-term review of its greenhouse gas standard for new cars the Obama administration hurriedly finished to keep the program in place.
The administration is also expected to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a greater role in determining if stricter fuel economy standards still make sense. EPA and NHTSA jointly administer federal fuel economy standards.
The mid-term review was supposed to be released in April 2018, but the Obama EPA sped up its timeline to release the fuel economy standards for cars before Trump took office.
Obama unilaterally mandated in 2012 that we have 54.5 miles per gallon cars by 2025 in the name of fighting global warming. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy justified her decision by arguing “this program will remain affordable and effective.”
“This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry’s capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment,” McCarthy said in November.
Automakers generally support fuel economy standards, but argued Obama’s emissions mandate that new cars get the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon is unworkable. Automakers have petitioned Trump to reconsider Obama’s mandate.
“The evidence is abundantly clear that with low gas prices, consumers are not choosing the cars necessary to comply with increasingly unrealistic standards,” the Auto Alliance said. “Wishing this fact away does no one any favors, and getting this wrong has serious implications.”
Environmentalists and Democrats opposed Trump’s order to reverse Obama’s fuel mandate, saying stricter standards save customers money at the gas pump and fight global warming.
“The Trump Administration’s decision today is shortsighted and blatantly ignores how successful these standards have been,” Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement.
But automakers and economists have questioned whether or not fuel savings outweigh the increased price of cars as a result of more regulation.
The conservative Heritage Foundation issued a report in 2016 arguing tighter fuel mandates have raised the price of cars. The price of a new car has risen $6,900 since Obama took office, according to Heritage.
“Federal regulations that force ever-increasing automobile fuel economy standards cost consumers thousands of dollars more than what they save on using less gas,” Heritage economists David Kreutzer and Salim Furth wrote of their study on fuel economy mandates. “These burdensome regulations also reduce new car purchases and, therefore, auto worker employment.”
Kreutzer now works at EPA as a member of the Trump administration’s “beachhead” team.