EPA moves fast on mpg regs as inauguration draws near

Despite protests from the auto industry, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to keep strict gas mileage targets in place and is trying to fast-track those standards before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.

In a proposal on Wednesday, the agency said it continues to want a company’s fleet of new cars and light trucks to range between 49.9 and 53.3 miles per gallon by 2025, on average, depending on the mix of cars and trucks sold. That amounts to about 40 mpg in real-world driving and is a significant increase from the 24.8 mpg that cars sold in October get. 

The EPA had until April 2018 to finalize its fuel economy standards, but its decision to issue a proposal this week was seen by some as a hasty attempt to get those standards on the books before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. The proposal is now open for public comments until the end of the year.

Fuel economy has been a thorny issue between the federal government and carmakers. President Obama first introduced the plan in 2012, when gas prices were significantly higher. Now gas is hovering at about $2 a gallon nationally, and car buyers have shifted their preferences toward larger and less fuel-efficient SUVs and trucks. 

So carmakers have pushed for the EPA to reconsider its fuel efficiency targets, and were hoping for a rollback. Instead, Wednesday’s proposal angered several auto groups. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers called the EPA move “an extraordinary and premature rush to judgment.”

Peter Welch, president of the National Automobile Dealers Assn., said: “Washington today decided to make new cars and trucks more expensive for America’s working men and women.”

On the other side, environmental and consumer groups were ecstatic.

“What’s not to like about a plan, agreed to by automakers, that cuts oil use, saves money at the pump and reduces pollution?” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign.

The proposal has been years in the making.

In 2011, in the wake of the federal auto industry bailout, the Obama administration and industry executives agreed to lift mileage goals from 30.2 mpg for cars and 24.3 mph for light trucks to a goal of 54.5 mpg across their fleets by 2025. That figure was reduced in July to 50.8 mpg. Because of testing variations, experts say the mpg number that shows up on a window sticker is about 20% to 30% lower.

The agreement required a “mid-term review” where technological progress and consumer demand would be considered to determine whether the goal was reachable.

Now the EPA is saying yes, it is reachable. In its lengthy “proposed determination” on Wednesday, the agency explained that while it was required to make a final determination “no later” than April 1, 2018, nothing stops it from moving sooner.

Read the entire article at LATimes.com