The Trump administration announced Thursday that they would freeze fuel-efficiency requirements for trucks and cars produced in the United States through 2026 - a rollback in regulations that's likely to spur a lengthy legal battle between the administration and states like California who have imposed their own stricter standards.
The Trump administration says that by requiring automakers to manufacture enough fuel-efficient vehicles to reach a fleetwide average of 51.4 miles per gallon by 2026, that places an undue burden on car manufacturers and encourages consumers to stick with older, less-safe cars and trucks. The proposal argues that by freezing fuel-efficiency standards, Americans would be able to save thousands of dollars on new vehicles produced in the United States, which could help avoid up to 1,000 road deaths every year.
Acting EPA Administration Andrew Wheeler said the proposal would allow "more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less. More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment."
The proposal freezes fuel economy standards set by the Transportation Department for model years 2021-2016 at 2020 levels. That would also result in the EPA rolling back Obama-era regulations on carbon dioxide standards, which would have eventually brought fleet averages up to 54.5 miles per gallon.
However, critics of the proposal say the Trump administration trying to force a showdown with California and other states will result in a patchwork of laws that will hamper the development of the next generation of cars and trucks. They say the proposal also overlooks how much money Americans could save at the pump if cars were more efficient.
Senator Tom Carper (D-Del) issued a statement blasting the proposed freeze.
"This administration has, once again, ignored the obvious right answer and decided to listen to the most extreme voices as it pushes through a plan that no one is interested in — with the exception of the oil industry, perhaps," said Sen. Carper.
California has long set their own tailpipe restrictions under its unique authority under the Clean Air Act, which allows it to set its own stricter standards. The Trump administration's proposal revokes that waiver and would require the Golden State to look to federal authority when it came to fuel-efficiency standards.
At least twelve other states along with Washington D.C. already follow California's stricter standards. Combined, the states make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. auto market.
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