EPA Finalizes 2025 Fuel Economy Rules Before Trump Enters Office

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its move to lock in President Obama’s fuel economy rules through 2025, supporting the administration’s climate change efforts as the White House changes hands.

The EPA had received objections from automakers in November when it shortened the timetable for a mid-term review of its mandate to raise corporate average fuel economy of new vehicles sold to more than “50 mpg” by 2025 (actually upper 30s on window stickers). The EPA decided to change timing to receiving public comments on whether to modify the 2022-2025 model year vehicle emission rules from April 2018 to January, prior to the Trump administration taking over the White House.

Several automakers have approached Trump to review the rules requiring them to nearly double the fleet-wide fuel efficiency by 2025. Trump is expected to take the requests seriously with his criticism of Obama’s climate policies; automakers’ also argue that the strict rules impose significant costs and are not in line with what consumers have been purchasing lately, favoring pickups and SUVs over small, fuel-efficient cars.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and others, criticized the decision.

“Our fundamental priority remains striking the right balance to continue fuel economy gains and carbon reduction without compromising consumer affordability and vital auto-sector jobs,” said spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist.

Consumers Union, the policy division of Consumer Reports, praised the decision as a big win for consumers. Setting these strong and achievable fuel economy targets will reduce fuel expenses and bring more choices to market for fuel efficient vehicles, offering some protection from future gas price volatility. Consumers Union projects consumers will be able to benefit from net savings of $3,200 per car and $5,700 per truck at today’s low gas prices, if the federal guidelines are followed. Consumers will have even greater financial security if and when gas prices increase in the future.

“EPA made the right choice. These standards will help consumers keep more of their hard earned money instead of wasting it at the gas pump,” said Shannon Baker–Branstetter, energy policy counsel for Consumers Union.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy McCarthy emphasized cost savings, public health, and the environment, in a statement.

“At every step in the process, the analysis has shown that the greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks remain affordable and effective through 2025, and will save American drivers billions of dollars at the pump while protecting our health and the environment,” McCarthy said.

SEE ALSO:  US New Car Fuel Economy Has Not Improved For Three Years Straight

While the original “54.5 mpg” by 2025 mandate has been expected to end up being around 37-38 mpg on window stickers, increasing fuel economy will be a steep climb for automakers. As reported this week by University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the average fuel economy for new passenger vehicles purchased has stayed stuck at 25.1 mpg for the past three model years.

The EPA would likely discount with these TRI findings, emphasizing improvements being made by automakers in efficient vehicle technologies.

Automakers plan to continue discussions with the new administration, and with the state of California as it enforces its own requirements. Automakers hope “to see whether we can find a prudent compromise path forward that avoids an unnecessary and counterproductive regulatory collision,” Bergquist said.

Legal experts expect that changing the fuel economy rules and timetable will be challenging for the Trump administration and Congress. They say the Trump administration would have to go through an extensive process before withdrawing EPA decision. Lawsuits filed by environmental groups would also make it tougher to deal with.

Automakers were pleased last month to see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lighten up the regulatory enforcement process. NHTSA postponed a penalty increase that would have been applied to 2015 model-year vehicles. Penalties against automakers not meeting compliance will be held off until 2019.

At that time, NHTSA also granted automakers’ request for a rule-making process that will help to sort out the differences between the greenhouse-gas standards imposed by the EPA and the fuel-economy standard set out by NHTSA.

Automotive News


More Hybrid News...