US rethinks plan to freeze fuel economy
Petroleumworld 01 17 2019
President Donald Trump's administration plans to adopt a 0.5pc/yr increase to fuel-economy standards for cars and pickups rather than freezing them through 2026, says a top Democratic lawmaker.
The US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's ranking member Tom Carper (D-Delaware) said that rate increase would be 10 times weaker than existing fuel-economy targets that were set under former president Barack Obama. He predicted relaxing the rules in such a way would produce years of litigation involving states, automakers and federal regulators.
"That is not a win-win outcome," Carper said today during a confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler to become the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "It is a lose-lose."
The discussion comes as the Trump administration works to complete changes to the standards by the end of March, to provide time for automakers to adjust cars and trucks they will sell in model year 2021. The administration last year proposed to freeze fuel-economy standards starting next year at 37 miles/USG through 2026, which it expects will increase fuel consumption by 500,000 b/d.
EPA, which is developing the rule alongside the US Transportation Department, said no final decisions have been made. But the 0.5pc/yr increase would translate into fuel-economy targets for new cars and trucks rising by just 1.1 miles/USG over a seven-year period. That compares with an average increase of 9.7 miles/USG by 2026 under existing standards.
Democrats say relaxing the rules will increase greenhouse gas emissions, the country's reliance on oil and fuel costs for consumers. The administration expects freezing the standards will result in the emissions of 872mn metric tonnes of CO2 over the lifetimes of the vehicles, which is equivalent to about one-eighth of US greenhouse gas emissions.
"We import 2.5mn b/d from Opec," senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) said. "Do you think that is just something we should accept by not increasing fuel-economy standards?"
Wheeler, who is now EPA's acting administrator, defended the administration's approach. He said the regulation would make new vehicles more affordable and reduce highway fatalities by 1,000/yr. That claim has been questioned by EPA's staff, which found freezing the standards would increase highway fatalities by 17/yr.
EPA said the partial government shutdown that is now in its 25th day has not had a "significant impact" on the schedule for finalizing the rule, which has been planned to be finalized by 30 March.
Republican lawmakers said they supported EPA's approach. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) said the revised regulations would accommodate consumers who prefer buying trucks rather than smaller vehicles.
"Is it really the role of government to dictate what people are buying in America?" Inhofe said.
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