While most of the nation shelters in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Trump administration continues to dilute Obama-era environmental regulations. In his latest move, Trump has rolled back vehicle emission standards. Instead of Obama’s requirement of 5% increases in fuel efficiency through 2026, Trump dropped that figure to 1.5%.
This more relaxed policy will save automakers at least $1 billion in compliance costs, according to the Trump administration. Business groups lauded the change. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the policy a “workable path forward on a unified national program that provides regulatory certainty while strengthening fuel economy standards and continuing emissions reductions,” Reuters reported.
But environmentalists aren’t going to accept a lax attitude on pollution without a fight. At least 23 states plan to challenge the new policy, including California. Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, said Trump is weakening “standards that protect our health and environment from polluting contaminants emitted by cars and trucks.”
Under Obama’s rules, the U.S. vehicle fleet would average 46.7 miles per gallon. The Trump administration’s policy will see an average of 40.4 miles per gallon. The administration estimates the rollback will result in Americans consuming an additional two billion barrels of oil, releasing 867 to 923 more metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and paying an extra $1,000 in fuel costs over the life of a single vehicle.
This is the latest of the Trump administration’s reversals to environmental policies. Last week, the administration suspended the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement of environmental laws for the duration of the pandemic, so businesses won’t face any consequences for pollution during this time. Trump has also removed the United States from a global climate accord.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, rebuked the Trump administration “for exploiting the cover of a pandemic to roll back the clean car standards, which are crucial public health safeguards.”
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