With the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president last November, it became clear that the regulatory environment for businesses would change once he took office.
Indeed, dozens of regulations limiting corporate activities involving emissions, fossil-fuel exploration, hiring and firing, and a host of other issues have been eliminated or are under review.
Among them are the corporate average fuel-economy standards for vehicles in model years 2022 through 2025.
Those rules are set by the NHTSA, an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the agency has already indicated it is reassessing the proposed standards for that period.
While the EPA had finalized its corresponding standards limiting vehicle emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, it too has reopened those standards and may make them more lenient.
We asked our Twitter followers what they expected to happen to the gas-mileage rules known by the abbreviation of CAFE.
What will happen to U.S. fuel-economy rules through 2025?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) September 11, 2017
Interestingly, participants in the poll were evenly split.
Equal proportions of survey respondents, 35 percent in each case, opted for the worst possible choice—a rollback—and for a more optimistic scenario of only minor tweaks and adjustments.
A much lower proportion of participants opted for the status quo, which would be the NHTSA formally adopting CAFE rules that match the EPA carbon limits enacted and now under review.
Just 16 percent of respondents agreed that the standards for 2022 through 2025 would stay in place as adopted.
An even lower number, 14 percent, thought that the standards would be frozen at the 2022 level, another possibility the NHTSA has said it is evaluating.
If there is an auto-industry consensus, it would seem to suggest that the NHTSA may delay or tweak its standards, but not actually roll them back.
The auto industry itself is keenly aware that North America already has carbon limits and corresponding fuel-economy requirements far more lax than those in China—now the world's largest car market—and the European Union.
Even in an era of cheap gasoline, consumers favor tougher fuel-economy requirements (because it saves them money over the lifetime of the vehicle).
And loosening U.S. rules would simply put vehicles built for a static North American market further out of sync with those required for the rest of the world, where industry growth will take place.
It's probably worth noting that the current Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, is the wife of Senator Mitch McConnell [R-KY], the majority leader of the U.S. Senate and a crucial ally in enacting the president's agenda (when the two men aren't feuding).
As always, the results of our Twitter poll aren't statistically valid—for a variety of reasons having to do with who saw the survey and who chose to respond—and should be viewed as discussion fodder, not a representative scientific survey.