In the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump administration continues to disregard science by sharply cutting the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards negotiated by the Obama administration. The rollback is both the most impactful and heedless environmental deregulation of Trump's presidency.
The cuts are the most impactful because the transportation sector is the single greatest source of the greenhouse gases (GHGs)responsible for Earth's warming, e.g., CO2. They are heedless because the action exceeds a target the auto industry has readily admitted they are prepared to meet. Worst of all, the rollback maintains the element markets most abhor--uncertainty.
The Trump administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule requires automakers to increase fleet efficiencies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 percent a year through model year 2026. An amount roughly equal to 40 miles per gallon (mpg). This as compared to the five (5) percent year-over-year increase mandated by the Obama administration. The 5 percent target is roughly equal to 54 mpg[i].
Initially, the administration had proposed freezing the CAFE standard at the 2020 level of 41+/- mpg. Why it adopted the slightly more stringent standard in its final order is not entirely clear. Trump and company may believe the bump-up will protect them in court as it gives the appearance of heeding the warnings of peer-reviewed climate studies. Given three years of conservative judicial appointments—including two Supreme Court justices—they may be right.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.