Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have sued the Trump administration over rollbacks in fuel-efficiency standards, citing poor science and threats to public health.
While the world has focused on the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has been busy easing environmental regulations. His undoing of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, the country’s biggest effort so far to fight climate change, has been especially bitter to environmentalists. Trump says lower standards are better for the auto industry and the economy in general.
California is leading the lawsuit. According to Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, the pandemic is a whole other reason — besides destroying the planet we live on — not to lower efficiency standards. “Vehicles are the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in America, and pollution-related respiratory illnesses make people more susceptible to COVID-19,” Becerra told The New York Times.
Under Obama’s plan, U.S. vehicles would be required to average 46.7 miles per gallon. Trump’s policy dials it down to 40.4 miles per gallon. According to the Trump administration’s estimates, this will result in Americans consuming 2 billion additional barrels of oil and releasing 867 to 923 more metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel costs will average about an extra $1,000 over the lifetime of a single vehicle.
The auto industry is split about Trump’s efficiency rollback. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation supports it. But four member companies — Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen — declared they will uphold higher standards than the government mandates.
“The Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Car Standards will hurt Americans, increase harmful pollution, cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, and cost consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump,” Peter Zalzal, lead attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, told The New York Times. “The rollback is deeply and fundamentally flawed, it is inconsistent with the agencies’ legal duty to reduce harmful pollution and conserve fuel, and we look forward to vigorously challenging it in court.”
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