Trump Finalizes Auto Emissions Rollback

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This is not an April Fool’s joke. Even amidst the exigencies of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump maladministration pushed ahead with its plan to gut the auto emissions standards put in place during the Obama administration. The rules were agreed to by the major auto manufacturers when they were clamoring to suckle on the government teat during the last financial crisis, but they started lobbying to undercut them almost immediately. On March 31, they finally got their wish and quite a bit more.

The convoluted logic used to justify rolling back those rules goes like this: emissions controls cost money. All of the increases in auto prices over the last decade or so have been directly caused by meeting those burdensome emissions rules. Newer cars are safer than older cars (apparently making cars safer costs nothing, according to the brainiacs in TrumpWorld), so by rolling back emissions requirements, more people will be able to afford newer, safer cars (and auto manufacturers will be able to pocket billions in profits as a result, but never mind that).

Any 4th grader could see through this specious reasoning in the time it takes to send a tweet, but logic is alien to this maladministration. All government regulations are bad. Therefore, all government regulations must be done away with the greatest extent possible so that business can get on with making profits, regardless of the cost to society or the environment. There’s money to be made today. Who cares about an overheating planet that may not happen for hundreds of years? (Or a few decades, some say.) Let people who are alive then worry about that. We could care less.

As The New York Times reports, allowing higher exhaust emissions will add a billion tons of carbon dioxide to an already overburdened atmosphere over the lifespan of those new cars compared to what the old rules would have allowed, and several hundred million tons more than would occur if the latest EU rules were in force in America.

The lower fuel efficiency standard “is the single most important thing that the administration can do to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise of reforming the regulatory state, and to undo the impact that the previous administration has had on the economy,” said Thomas J. Pyle, the president of the Institute for Energy Research, a satellite of the ever expanding Koch Industries constellation of fake science supporters.

Not everyone agrees. “This is not just an inopportune moment to finalize a major rule-making,” said Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment Committee. “In this case, it’s a completely irresponsible one.”

2020 Cadillac Escalade
2020 Escalade. Image credit: Cadillac

Under the existing rules, average fleet fuel economy would rise to 54 mpg by 2025. Under the new rules, it will only get to 40 mpg. Lots of people see those numbers and think they are impossibly high, but there’s a catch. Average fuel economy is calculated using the old formula in existence before the EPA amended it because it was wildly optimistic. If the CAFE numbers were calculated using the new formula, that 54 mpg would be closer to 38 mpg in the real world. There are plenty of cars on the road today that already exceed the proposed 2025 standard.

The other wild card in the discussion is the so-called “footprint rule” which sets lower targets for larger vehicles. America is buying more and more SUVs and trucks that qualify for the lower standard so even that 38 mpg does not apply to Stupid Duty pickup trucks, Escalades, and such. Once again, America has chosen expediency over leadership, one more step back from recovering its reputation as one of the world’s leading nations.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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