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Automakers Support Latest EPA & NHTSA Environmental Rules

It’s back to the future time in Washington, DC. The EPA and NHTSA have finalized rules governing fuel economy and exhaust emissions that will finally match what the Obama administration proposed back in 2015. In  other words, the US has been backsliding on its commitment to a sustainable environment, thanks to enormous pressure brought to bear by those who profit from degrading the environment. NHTSA sets fuel economy requirements while the Environmental Protection Agency develops limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

General Motors, Toyota, and Stellantis showed their true colors, while the Orange Ogre was in power by joining in a lawsuit filed by fossil fuel stooge Andrew Wheeler when he was head of the EPA. That legal action sought to prevent California from charting its own course to protect its citizens from environmental harm. Funny how those who scream the loudest about states’ rights are the first to cram unpopular policies down the throats of the states when they are in power. Can you say “hypocrisy,” boys and girls? Yeah, we knew you could.

New EPA & NHTSA Rules

The automakers have been flip-flopping like boats in a gale, tacking first one way, then the other as they fight for the right to produce the biggest, thirstiest, and dirtiest motor vehicles in history because they care more about profits than a sustainable planet. But now, the EPA and NHTSA have promulgated new rules that will put the nation back to approximately where it would have been if the fossil fuel crazies had not torpedoed the Obama era rules while they were staggering around Washington like drunks at an Irish wake.

According to Reuters, the new fuel economy rules, which will take effect in September, will require a 28.3% reduction in vehicle emissions through 2026. The EPA guidelines, which were promulgated last December, are being challenged by several Republican-led states who feel it is more important to protect industry profits than the health of their citizens. Those states include Texas (of course) plus Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Arizona.

Automakers Back EPA In Suit

This week, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents nearly all major automakers, said in a court filing that the EPA rule “will challenge the industry” but provide automakers with “critically important flexibilities.” It said Alliance members want to be certain “critical regulatory provisions supporting electric vehicle technology are maintained.” Otherwise there is a significant risk to the car manufacturers. “If the outcome of the litigation remains in question for a significant period … (automakers) could face stranded investments and planning uncertainty.”

As a writer I hold in the highest regard put it back in November of 2022, “What scares the bejezus out of the car companies is the need to meet two different standards — one for California and the states who follow its lead and another for the rest of the country. Meeting different standards costs money, which sucks up profits. Heaven forfend GM and the others lose a nickel a car because of some silly regulations.”

According to Autoblog, the new requirements increase gas mileage by 8% per year for model years 2024 and 2025 and 10% in the 2026 model year. For the current model year, the standards enacted under Trump require the fleet of new vehicles to get just over 24 miles per gallon in real world driving. Agency officials say the requirements are the maximum the industry can achieve over the time period and will reduce gasoline consumption by more than 220 billion gallons over the life of vehicles, compared with the Trump standards.

The Obama era standards automatically adjusted for changes in the type of vehicles people are buying. When they were enacted in 2012, 51% of new vehicle sales were cars and 49% SUVs and trucks. In 2021, 77% of new vehicle sales were SUVs and trucks, which generally are less efficient than cars.

Good, But Not Good Enough

Some environmental groups said the new requirements from NHTSA don’t go far enough, particularly since they continue to encourage the manufacture of the largest cars possible. “Climate change has gotten much worse, but these rules only require automakers to reduce gas-guzzling slightly more than they agreed to cut nine years ago, Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Center at the Center for Biological Diversity tells Autoblog. He says the final rule is about two mpg short of the strongest alternative that NHTSA considered.

Officials said that under the new standards, owners would save about $1,400 in gasoline costs during the lifetime of a 2029 model year vehicle (hardly significant). Carbon dioxide emissions would drop by 2.5 billion metric tons by 2050 under the standards (quite significant).

It’s The Government’s Fault!

Auto dealers complain long and loud that tougher emissions standards drive up prices and push people out of an already expensive new car market. This is a favorite con the dealers like to pull on the public. Blame it all on pollution rules, but don’t ever mention the 49-speaker stereos, the infotainment screens that people demand, or the supercomputers running 300 million lines of software code embedded into all those new cars. 22″ wheels and tires add to the total, as do individual computer screens for passengers, automatic climate control systems, and power-operated doors. Easier to blame it on the gummint rather than put the blame where it belongs.

Just the other day, we reported on a study by Emissions Analytics that found a $200 filter fitted to all gasoline-powered vehicles sold in the US could significantly reduce emissions of ultra-fine particulates that collect in our bodily tissues and contributing to poorer health and shorter lifespans. If dealers cared a flying figleaf about their customers, they would demand manufacturers add these devices to the cars they sell to their friends and neighbors, just as they are in the UK, Europe, India, and China.

But not in America, where Big Government can’t tell consumers to pay for something that doesn’t make them feel they could ditch the traffic on the highway and take a road through the Sierra Madre mountains to get to work. That would be against all the notions of freedom that are at the heart of the American experience. Nothing says liberty like a disease ridden life and an untimely death.

The Bottom Line

EPA CO2 regs

Image credit: EPA

Here’s the bottom line. For model year 2026 cars and later, the new rules require a combined fleet average for each manufacturer of 161 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. In other words, 4 years from now, the US will finally catch up to where Europe is today. Kinda makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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