When the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rolled out their proposed rulemaking for changing the greenhouse gas and fuel economy regulations governing MY 2012-2026 light duty vehicles, opposition from environmental groups, affected state governments and other sectors was broad and rapid—partly because the move had been telegraphed for months prior.
In summary, the preferred alternative of the proposed rulemaking would freeze the requirements at the MY 2020 level through MY 2026. This would result in an average fuel economy for passenger cars of 43.7 mpg and for light trucks of 31.3 mpg.
In addition, EPA is also proposing to exclude CO2-equivalent emission improvements associated with air conditioning refrigerants and leakage (and, optionally, offsets for nitrous oxide and methane emissions) after model year 2020.
And, perhaps most controversially, the Administration is proposing torpedoing California’s ability to set its own standards. EPA is proposing to withdraw the waiver of CAA preemption for California’s Advanced Clean Car (ACC) program, Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) standards that are applicable to the affected model years. The Administration proposal would also block the many other states that use California standards from moving forward.
California Governor Jerry Brown shot back:
For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere. Under his reckless scheme, motorists will pay more at the pump, get worse gas mileage and breathe dirtier air. California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.
A large component of the Administration’s rationale for the change hinges on its analysis of the cost of clean technology, the resultant savings to motorists, and an associated reduction in injuries and fatalities due to more motorists presumably buying newer, safer cars because the cost would be less.
For consumers, the Administration claims:
A $2,340 reduction in overall average vehicle ownership costs for new vehicles ($1,850 reduction in the average required technology costs and $490 reduction in ownership costs for financing, insurance, and taxes).
More than 12,000 fewer crash fatalities over the lifetimes of all vehicles built through MY 2029, with up to 1,000 lives saved annually.
For manufacturers, the Administration claims reduced regulatory costs and burdens will result in:
$252.6 billion reduction in regulatory costs through MY 2029.
1 million additional new vehicle sales through MY 2029.
Reduction from 56% to 3% in the percentage of hybrid vehicles needed to comply in MY 2030.
37.0 mpg projected overall industry average required fuel economy in MYs 2021-2026, compared to 46.7 mpg projected requirement in MY 2025 under standards issued in 2012.
Overall, the Administration claims:
More than $500 billion reduction in societal costs over the lifetimes of vehicles through MY 2029 (Technology costs: $252.6 billion; costs attributable to additional fatalities: $77.1 billion; costs attributable to additional injuries: $120.4 billion; costs attributable to additional congestion and noise: $51.9 billion).
$176 billion in societal net benefits.
2-3% increase in daily fuel consumption—about 0.5 million barrels per day.
Increase from 789.11 ppm to 789.76 ppm in atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2100.
No noticeable impact to net emissions of smog-forming or other “criteria” or toxic air pollutants.
At first glance, this proposal completely misrepresents costs and savings. It also relies on bizarre assumptions about consumer behavior to make its case on safety. CARB will examine all 978 pages of fine print to figure out how the Administration can possibly justify its absurd conclusion that weakening standards to allow dirtier, less efficient vehicles will actually save lives and money. Stay tuned for further comment. Meantime, California remains fully committed to a rigorous 50-state program with a full range of vehicle choices. That program is in effect right now and will remain so for the foreseeable future.—California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols
In a column in Forbes, Dan Sperling, the Distinguished Blue Planet Prize Professor of Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of California, Davis and Nic Lutsey, who directs US policy and electric vehicle research at the International Council on Clean Transportation, somewhat sedately observed that:
We ask, perhaps naively, what is the Trump administration thinking? We are researchers, not pundits, and so we hesitate to speculate. But the evidence shows that freezing CAFE standards is hard to justify on economic, social, environmental, or legal grounds.
In a separate release, the ICCT noted that the proposal runs counter to the ICCT’s extensive technology and cost assessment, which found that the standards are technologically feasible at far lower cost than anticipated in 2012.
A significant body of ICCT research built up over several years, most of it done in close collaboration with US and international automotive suppliers, has validated the rigorous and meticulous analyses previously done by EPA and California Air Resources Board staff on which the vehicle efficiency standards that the administration now seeks to dismantle were founded. Indeed, our primary critique of the agencies’ technical work to this point has been that their conclusions tended to prove too conservative—that the pace of automotive technological innovation and more realistic cost-benefit assessments would justify even more ambitious goals, better aligned with the urgent need to reduce oil consumption and carbon emissions.
To see how starkly conservative the new proposal is: its estimates that the 2025 standards will cost $1,800–$2,300 per vehicle are 3-4 times the ICCT’s own estimate of $550, based on existing and emerging technologies. They are also about twice the costs estimated by EPA ($894) and NHTSA ($1,245) in their 2016 Technical Assessment Report.
We remain hopeful that some more constructive outcome may still emerge from the public comment period on this proposal, and toward that end we will continue to press the case for practical, fact-based, future-oriented policies that advance cleaner and more efficient transportation in the United States.—The ICCT
In a call with reporters on Thursday, EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum said:
There’s nothing about how greenhouse gases and potential climate change affects California that’s any different than any other state in the country. There’s no justification for California to have its own standards. Having said that, this is just a proposed rule, and on the other hand we are committed to working with California to try to find a mutually agreeable set of regulations.
The Auto Alliance and Global Automakers—representing the major automakers selling into the US market—jointly said:
Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment. With today’s release of the Administration’s proposals, it’s time for substantive negotiations to begin. We urge California and the federal government to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America’s drivers.