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EPA: GHG emissions standards for cars and light trucks should be revised; joint process with NHTSA (updated with more reactions)

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the completion of the Midterm Evaluation (MTE) process for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025, and his final determination that the current standards are not appropriate and should be revised.

Administrator Pruitt also announced the start of a joint process with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a notice and comment rulemaking to set revised GHG emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong. Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.

—EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Negative reaction to the widely expected announcement was voluminous and vociferous:

  • Ceres: “Rolling back the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and emissions standards will undermine the global competitiveness of the US auto industry. Our analysis shows that weakening fuel-economy and emissions standards will harm the economy and the auto industry, particularly auto parts suppliers, who employ more than twice as many Americans as auto companies, and who, relying on current standards, have invested heavily in fuel-efficient technologies.”

  • Ceres’ BICEP network: “This decision will also increase air pollution, which will raise healthcare costs and lead to less productivity as a result of more missed work and school days.”

  • Consumers Union: “Thanks to emissions and efficiency standards, consumers have saved billions of dollars on fuel over the last 5 years. And if the standards were protected instead of undermined, consumers could expect to save a lot more over the next decade. It would be wasteful to discard those consumer savings, but EPA now appears poised to do just that.”

  • NRDC: “Backing off now is irresponsible and unwarranted.”

  • Sierra Club: “These roll-backs from Scott Pruitt mean Americans will pay more at the pump while our air gets dirtier, just so Pruitt can help the corporate lobbyists and polluters who give him favors and marching orders. ”

  • E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs): “Cleaner and more efficient vehicles means more jobs in innovative technologies and more dollars back in the pockets of small businesses and consumers. Americans voted for an economy built for the future, but this administration continues to ignore experts and the auto industry’s own progress to push a vision that will damage US competitiveness for years to come.”

  • Alliance to Save Energy: “Weakening the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards would mean higher fuel costs for individuals and businesses, more greenhouse gas emissions and sacrificing our energy security. There’s no good reason for these standards to be sabotaged.”

  • California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols: “This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards with no documentation, evidence or law to back up that decision. This is not a technical assessment, it is a move to demolish the nation’s clean car program. EPA’s action, if implemented, will worsen people’s health with degraded air quality and undermine regulatory certainty for automakers. This decision takes the U.S. auto industry backward, and we will vigorously defend the existing clean vehicle standards and fight to preserve one national clean vehicle program.”

More reactions came from groups within the auto and fuel industries that benefit from tighter emissions and fuel economy standards :

  • The Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group said that: “The US aluminum industry supports nearly 713,000 jobs and $186 billion in direct and indirect economic output and we look forward to continuing working with the Administration and other stakeholders to ensure final emissions and fuel economy standards are premised on facts, data and on-the-road examples. Vehicles made lighter through greater aluminum use offer consumers better performance, affordable choices, higher fuel economy, lower emissions and improved safety. The Aluminum Association, whose member companies invested more than $2.6 billion in auto-focused manufacturing jobs since 2013, strongly supports regulatory certainty to 2025 through one national program.”

  • Growth Energy: “For several years, Growth Energy has strongly emphasized the fact that fuels and engines are a system and that high-octane fuels—such as ethanol blends like E25-E30—should be part of this discussion. We have provided a wealth of data to show that midlevel ethanol blends can be used by automakers to produce smaller, more efficient engines that will help meet future vehicle standards. We will continue to remain engaged with automakers and government stakeholders to ensure that biofuels are part of any long-term plan for engine efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction.”

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA sets national standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions of certain pollutants. Through a CAA waiver granted by EPA, California can impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions of certain pollutants than federal requirements. The California waiver is still being reexamined by EPA.

Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country. EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford—while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It is in America’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard.

—Administrator Pruitt

Background. As part of the 2012 rulemaking establishing the model year 2017-2025 light-duty vehicle GHG standards, EPA made a regulatory commitment to conduct a MTE of the standards for MY 2022-2025 no later than 1 April 2018. This evaluation would determine whether the standards remain appropriate or should be made more, or less stringent.

In November 2016, the Obama Administration issued their final determination on 12 January 2017, just days before leaving office. Since then, the auto industry and other stakeholders sought a reinstatement of the original MTE timeline of a completed MTE by 1 April 2018, so that the Agency could review the latest information.

EPA and the US Department of Transportation announced a reestablishment of the MTE process in March 2017. (Earlier post.) In August 2017, EPA reopened the regulatory docket and asked for additional information and data relevant to assessing whether the GHG emissions standards remain appropriate, including information on: consumer behavior, feedback on modeling approaches, and assessing advanced fuels technologies. EPA also held a public hearing on this topic.


Charles Buck

American auto companies have become afflicted with bone spuritis since Trump took office and can't do technological progress anymore. There is one market Trump has influenced positively; the price of gasoline is up forty cents a gallon since he's been in office. It's headed higher because ExxonMobil (and the Russians) needs so much more corporate welfare to support that other type of global warming: porn-star NDA production.


It will be interesting to see how successful the autos will be in meeting the standards through 2021 (seems these will be preserved) which will not be as easy as some think. The standards beyond 2021 will greatly influence the extent to which hybrid powertrains (in their various) forms will need to be pushed into the market.


Trump thinks the US still matters. California and other states will tie this up in court for years. Meanwhile, China and Europe will drive the standards. No point in producing a cheap, high emissions car for US when you have to build a cheap, low emissions car for China.

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