Trump administration proposes freezing fuel efficiency standards

Vehicles travel along Highway 101 in Los Angeles

The Trump administration announced Thursday it wants to keep mandatory fuel standards from becoming more stringent for automakers, but Vermont officials say they'll help defend Obama-era fuel standards.

The Trump administration has moved to weaken USA vehicle emissions standards and has set up a major confrontation with California by scrapping its ability to enact stricter pollution standards and mandate the sale of electric cars. The new rules would cap corporate average fuel economy standards at 43.7 mpg for passenger cars and 31.3 mpg for light trucks through model year 2026.

The Trump administration's proposal would freeze fuel-efficiency standards at 2020 levels - about 37 miles per gallon by 2026, down from the Obama administration's almost 47 mpg - and weaken electric vehicle mandates.

The Obama-era rules also drove auto prices higher, since prior estimates fell short of what incremental improvements to fuel efficiency actually cost.

The reversal of an Obama-era deal with automakers in 2012 will also withdraw a waiver California has under the Clean Air Act to exceed the national standards by requiring even more efficient cars. Despite the waiver, California still fails to meet federal clean air guidelines, the agencies noted.

"My job as the state's attorney general is to protect my state's rights and interests and the environmental rights of all Pennsylvanians", Shapiro said.

California and NY are among the states signing on to a statement Thursday pledging legal action against the Trump administration's action on fuel efficiency.

"The EPA has handed decision making over to the fossil fuel lobbyists ... the flat-Earthers, the climate change deniers", said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

"For more than a decade, ME and the other states have used our rights under the Clean Air Act to limit tailpipe pollution beyond federal minimum requirements", Emmie Theberge, federal project director at NRCM, said in a statement.

It's got 'everything to do with just trying to turn over the fleet. and get more clean and safe cars on the road, ' EPA assistant administrator Bill Wehrum said. He said it was the administration's goal to come up with a "50-state solution that does not necessitate pre-empting California".

A lower emission standard would make it easier for them to make the vehicles more drivers want.

As auto manufacturers boosted fuel economy across their fleets, incremental improvements have become more costly and complicated while returns have diminished, the agencies say.

"We are delivering on President Trump's promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards", a statement from Wheeler reads.

"There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026", said DOT Secretary Elaine Chao in a press release on Thursday. They claimed the reduced standards would make new cars more affordable. Assuming, strictly for illustration purposes, a gasoline price of three dollars per gallon, that would result in an increased annual fuel expenditure of about $318. California and other states which follow its standard have indicated they will take legal action, which could significantly delay matters. "And because we are leaders, our standards have been adopted by more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia".

President Donald Trump said in March a year ago that his administration is working on relaxing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set by his predecessor.