One of the earliest acts of the Trump Administration was to announce that it would re-examine emission rules finalized by the EPA in the waning days of the Obama Administration.
Making good on that promise, EPA administrator (and climate-science denier) Scott Pruitt reopened the commenting period on tailpipe-emission limits of carbon dioxide adopted by the agency for 2022 through 2025 vehicles.
Industry handicapping suggests that those rules won't be tossed out wholesale, but may well be lengthened and/or tweaked to be more favorable to automakers.
The 2022-2025 rules are the last four years of steadily tightening parallel sets of emission limits and fuel-economy requirements that started in 2012, and substantial progress will have been made in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and gasoline consumption by 2021.
Still, the new administration seems determined to reduce or eliminate EPA regulations across the board, and automakers had complained loudly about the speed at which the EPA issued the scientific analysis required for the mandatory Midterm Review, and then finalized the rules based on it.
The fact that Mark Fields, then the CEO of Ford, cited a widely discredited study claiming the rules could cost up to 1 million auto jobs largely got lost in the shuffle. (Fields was replaced on May 22.)
How much would relaxing U.S. fuel-economy rules matter?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) May 30, 2017
The 2022-2025 fuel-economy rules are still being developed by the NHTSA, unlike the parallel emission regulations finalized and now being revisited by the EPA.
We polled our Twitter followers on the importance of any potential relaxation of corporate average fuel economy levels to see how damaging they considered such an action.
The overwhelming response was that it would matter "a lot (it's terrible)," the response chosen by fully two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents.
Another 18 percent said it would matter "a little."
Those who felt it wasn't that important totaled only 16 percent, with 10 percent saying it mattered "not at all."
The final 6 percent felt it mattered "a little."
While the total volume of gasoline saved and carbon-dioxide emissions averted by the 2022-2025 regulations is outweighed by the volumes achieved in the 2012-2021 rules, we suspect the significance of such an action is viewed as a public statement about U.S. intentions.
With the president and his staff simply refusing to state whether he "believes" the accepted science of climate change, and Trump having stated his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Treaty, relaxing carbon-emission rules represents simply another slap in the face to global efforts to reduce climate emissions.
Following the submission of new comments, the EPA will reassess the rules based on any new evidence received in those comments.
It must then make its decision based on a scientific analysis of the available data and science of climate change.