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March 16 2017

Trump Pumps the Brakes on Obama-Era Fuel Efficiency Regs

by Patrice L. Onwuka

Automakers have a little more breathing room from fuel-efficiency regulations put into place under former president Barack Obama to fight climate change.

President Donald Trump announced that he’s continuing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review of fuel efficiency standards, which gives officials more time to study the issue before setting new standards in 2018. Trump made this announcement after he and two cabinet members met with auto CEOs and union leaders outside of Detroit, MI. In a speech to the crowd Trump noted that there weren’t good reasons for the EPA to cancel the review early:

“If the standards threatened auto jobs, then common sense changes could’ve and should’ve been made,” he said, announcing that he would "restore the originally scheduled midterm review."

Elsewhere he said:

“There is no more beautiful sight than an American-made car,” Trump said. “We want to be the car capital of the world again.”

Secretaries Scott Pruitt and Elaine Chao also weighed in:

“These standards are costly for automakers and the American people,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a written statement. “We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look at determine if this approach is realistic. This thorough review will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment.”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also applauded the decision, calling the move “a win for the American economy.”

Former EPA head Gina McCarthy ended the review process of fuel efficiency regulations a week before  Obama left office in January to ensure that the stringent fuel economy rules requiring automakers to hit a certain efficiency rating (above 50 miles per gallon) by 2025 would not be thwarted by the incoming Trump Administration. The EPA was not set to finalize the rules until 2018. They claimed that more aggressive fuel standards would save consumers hundreds or thousands of dollars each year in fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, automakers would bear a heavy cost – some $200 million over 13 years. That would be passed on to car buyers we would expect.

Not surprisingly, automakers are thankful for the relief. They’ve argued that the new gas-mileage targets make it expensive to produce more high-mileage cars especially in light of consumer preferences that have shifted back towards larger vehicles that are less fuel efficient. The Auto Alliance, which represents BMW Group, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Toyota, and others, expressed their appreciation in a statement, noting:

“The Trump Administration has created an opportunity for decision-makers to reach a thoughtful and coordinated outcome predicated on the best and most current data,” the Alliance continued. “After all, these decisions impact the more than 7 million Americans dependent on autos for employment, as well as the driving public seeking affordable transportation.”

Meanwhile, environmental advocates have their gears all twisted up as do progressive leaders in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized the announcement as "one of the first steps in an all-out assault by the Trump administration to dismantle important environmental protection."

While creating fuel efficient vehicles is a noble goal, Obama officials at the EPA subverting President Trump is unprincipled and wrong. Last-minute regulations passed by Obama appointees and bureaucrats to enshrine President Obama’s legacy is the wrong approach to governing.

It’s encouraging to see the Trump Administration and Congress use tools such as the Congressional Review Act and others to roll back midnight regulations that drive up the costs of business and for American families.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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