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The Environmental Protection Agency is not sufficiently protecting the environment

Opinion by Michael Sivak

The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment. However, as the EPA is getting ready to relax the future vehicle fuel economy standards, the time is right to consider whether, under the current administration, this agency’s mission is, in fact, being carried out.

There are two ways by which we can evaluate that question: the degree to which the agency is successful in defending its share of the limited budget pie against the demands of other well-deserving federal agencies, and the degree to which its rulemaking actions to protect human health and the environment build upon the actions taken by previous administrations. And the findings are not good.

Let’s first examine the success in defending the EPA budget. Under President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal (which must have been discussed with the EPA administrator), the EPA’s funding would be reduced by 26%, more than any other major federal department. This would result in eliminating about a fifth of all EPA’s workforce.

And how about rulemaking actions that would strengthen the existing environmental protection? Just the opposite tends to be the case with the current EPA. According to one tally, as of late January 2018, 67 environmental rules were on their way out, with the EPA involved in nearly one-third of the reversals. And that brings me back to the impending relaxation of fuel economy standards.

Transportation currently accounts for 29% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (up from 24% in 1990). (In contrast, emissions from industry declined to 29% of the total from 36% in 1990.) In turn, passenger cars and light trucks (the focus of the standards in question) account for 60% of all transportation emissions. So if the EPA is serious about protecting the environment, it needs to keep standards in place that will curtail the huge amount of emissions from passenger cars and light trucks.

On a positive side, there has been a continuing improvement in the fuel economy of both new passenger cars and new light trucks. However, the net benefits of these improvements have been dampened by the continuing increase in the proportion of light trucks sold relative to passenger cars, because light trucks tend to have poorer fuel economy than passenger cars.

To live up to its name and its stated mission, the Environmental Protection Agency needs to better protect its funding. It is even more important that the funds that it has should be directed toward strengthening environmental protection, and not lessening it.

Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.

Comments

SJC

The air in L.A. would be worse if not for mileage and emissions standards. Electric vehicles will make the air cleaner with less imported oil.

Lad

What you see here is the fossil fuel interests, led by a bought Republican party, including Trump, waging anti-change campaigns to continue business as usual and to slow down the transition to clean energy...because it's in their financial interest to do so. The sad thing is how far the U.S. is falling behind the other nations in growing our economy because these politicians are holding back innovation and technology investments.

The midterm elections are in November; vote out the Republicans.

yoatmon

The triple C / CCC (criminal chaotic clown) also known as Trump with his cronies, including Pruitt, are slowly but surely ruining the reputation and economic foundation of a once proud and powerful country.

mpgJuan

The issues are not simple. The regulations for 2022-2025 left unchanged will rapidly push a large amount of electrified powertrains into the market, a trend previously underestimated by EPA (see the mid-term review and refereed papers on this subject). This pits initial cost of vehicles against the regulated rapid rise in fuel economy. Apart from significantly greater cost, there is a physics "beauty" to hybridization, with regenerative braking becoming an energy "source" vs. friction braking that turns vehicle kinetic energy into heat. Those who wish to defend the current (but likely to change) 2022-2025 CAFE standards need to make the careful, compelling honest arguments why they are a net "good." It can probably be done. In any case the OEMs will meet CAFE - they have to!

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