As had been expected and rumored, the Environmental Protection Agency will reject and reconsider existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules that were set to run through 2025. The Midterm Evaluation was intended to check automaker progress in meeting stricter efficiency rules that would govern the 2022-2025 model years. But the EPA said today that, “the current standards are not appropriate and should be revised.”
The rules were put into place in 2012 and would set the CAFE requirement at 54.5 miles per gallon, which is closer to 36 mpg in real-world driving. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had previously suggested that his agency would revisit the rules.
“The Obama Administration's determination was wrong,” Pruitt said in a statement today. “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.”
It remains to be seen what the new rules will require of automakers; the EPA hasn’t shared any specifics just yet.
In January of this year, a report from the EPA said that automaker fuel economy had reached record highs. In addition, the EPA said it expected 26 percent of model-year 2017 vehicles would already meet or beat the carbon-dioxide emission rules for 2020.
The EPA is also taking aim at the California Air Resource Board (CARB), which under a special waiver is allowed to set its own greenhouse gas and fuel-economy requirements for the state of California. Twelve other states already follow those rules. But Pruitt’s EPA wants to strike down that exemption so there is just one federally mandated efficiency standard nationwide. CARB says that states following its emissions rules account for a third of the new-car market in the U.S.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Among other things, California requires automakers to sell a certain number of plug-in vehicles in the state, with the goal of selling 15 percent “zero emission” vehicles by 2025.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement today that the auto industry had already made big strides toward reducing emissions: “Fleet-wide automobile [carbon dioxide] reductions are already more than 21 percent lower than in 2005.”
Consumers Union, the advocacy division of publication Consumer Reports, said that the EPA move would “raise costs for consumers,” who had been saving at the pump thanks to improved car fuel economy.
“This signals the first step towards lowering emissions and efficiency goals for new cars and trucks. Such a rollback will ultimately cost consumers up to $100 billion more to keep their gas tanks full,” Consumers Union said.
And the Natural Resources Defense Council called the EPA’s decision, “irresponsible and unwarranted,” saying in a statement: “An exhaustive, multi-year review concluded in January 2017 that the standards are working and that automakers can meet them, or even stronger ones, with existing technologies at a reasonable cost.”