Donald Trump’s administration is set to gut Barack Obama-era fuel efficiency standards on Tuesday, the New York Times reported, in a huge middle finger to anyone who cares about the environment and likely the White House’s biggest backtrack in federal climate policy.
The new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation is estimated to add almost a billion tons more carbon dioxide over the lifetime of U.S. vehicles than if the rules remained untouched, per the Times. According to the L.A. Times, the White House scaled back an initial effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards at this year’s levels that was furiously opposed by states, as well as major auto makers—who were concerned that such a drastic rollback could cause major problems in their market.
Instead, a final draft circulated earlier this year calls for the Trump administration to merely eviscerate the current standards, which require companies to improve fuel efficiency by five percent a year to hit an average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. The new standard would be a pitiful 1.5 percent increase a year to reach 40 miles per gallon by 2026, which the NYT reported would leave the U.S. with lower fuel economy standards than “the European Union, China, India, Japan and South Korea.” It is also less than the least the Trump administration could do: According to the NYT, the auto industry says it expects to improve by about 2.4 percent a year anyhow in the absence of a mandate.
The EPA’s science advisory board warned in late February that it found “significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis of the proposed rule,” citing modifications that resulted in “implausible results.” As the NYT noted, many of the members of the board are Trump appointees. Consumer Reports wrote earlier this year that while a U.S. Senate report found the cost of a new car under the lower standards would be $977 to $1,083 less, their own analysis in 2019 found that the average fuel cost over the lifetime of a car would increase by $3,200. That is around a $300 billion net loss to consumers from 2021-2035.
About 20 states are expected to sue the White House over the rollback, including California, which had an EPA waiver to set its own high fuel standards that the Trump administration yanked last year. The ensuing case would probably end up in the Supreme Court. As recently as last month, the NYT was reporting that the administration’s effort to push this shit sandwich down the country’s fault was hitting serious hindrances, such as officials selected to massage the numbers turning in a draft riddled with obvious errors:
In January, administration staff members appointed by President Trump sent a draft of the scaled-back fuel economy standards to the White House, but six people familiar with the documents described them as “Swiss cheese,” sprinkled with glaring numerical and spelling errors (such as “Massachusettes”), with 111 sections marked “text forthcoming.”
That draft concluded that the 1.5 percent rollback would actually cost the U.S. economy $13 billion to $22 billion (with factors including that dirtier American cars might be locked out of foreign markets). According to the NYT’s more recent report, this weekend White House officials “looked at a new option for their cost-benefit analysis” that got the numbers they wanted, which is a polite way of saying making shit up. Well, other recent developments include the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has proven an opportunity for the Trump administration to push their anti-environmental agenda to even more extreme levels, like halting all EPA regulatory enforcement.
Former senior EPA vehicle emissions specialist and current Environmental Defense Fund consultant Chet France told the paper, “It’s not going to be supported by the science. This will be the icing on cake of the legal flaws.” France told the Associated Press that even with “the catastrophe they’re in with the coronavirus, they’re pursuing a policy that’s going to hurt public health and kill people.”
“The auto industry wanted a smoother glide path to a more efficient future,” Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the University of California, San Diego director David Victor told the NYT. “Instead what they got was the populist politics of the far right, which is blowing up in their faces.”
“When finalized, the rule will benefit our economy, will improve the U.S. fleet’s fuel economy, will make vehicles more affordable, and will save lives by increasing the safety of new vehicles,” EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer bullshitted in a statement to the Associated Press on Monday.