The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to undo Obama-era greenhouse gas emission regulations and fuel economy standards that were designed to encourage the development of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will likely describe the move as a necessary lifting of burdensome regulations on automakers and to support the production of cheaper vehicles, but it doesn’t account for the costs of increased air pollution and continued climate change. Left in place, the rules would have reduced oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels while reducing carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of vehicles produced under the regulations.
The rules that are set to be rolled back under the Trump Administration were created in 2012 as one of President Obama’s major initiatives to combat climate change. If allowed to be fully implemented, the rules would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Some worry that the United States‘s decision to step away from stricter emissions standards could set a dangerous precedent around the world. “The concern is that automakers will go around the world basically trying to lobby regulators, saying, look, because the United States has reduced the pace, everywhere else should too,” Anup Bandivadekar, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the New York Times.
While American automakers had initially lobbied the Trump Administration for more relaxed standards, they did not expect to see a complete repeal of the rules. “We didn’t ask for that,” claimed Robert Bienenfeld, assistant vice president for environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor. “The position we outlined was sensible.” In a blog post, Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett wrote that “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” The relaxed standards proposed by automakers were viewed as less likely to cause a showdown with California and the dozen other states that follow its lead on strict environmental standards. Now, California is preparing for battle. “We’re going to defend first and foremost existing federal greenhouse gas standards,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the New York Times. “We’re defending them because they’re good for the entire nation. No one should think it’s easy to undo something that’s been not just good for the country, but good for the planet.”