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March 15, 2017
Trump’s Plan To Roll Back Obama’s Fuel Economy Rules For Cars, Explained
By Brad Plumervia Vox
Bit by bit, President Trump is starting to rewrite the multitude of policies the Obama administration put in place to fight global warming. Today’s target is a big one: the fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.
In 2011, the Obama administration began crafting sweeping new rules that would steadily increase the efficiency of US passenger vehicles through 2025. By the final year, the Environmental Protection Agency expects new cars and light trucks sold in the US to average roughly 36 miles per gallon on the road, up from 25 mpg today.
These rules are hardly an ideal climate policy, since they only apply to new cars (not the millions of cars already on the road), and since they’ve been undercut by cheap oil and the growing popularity of SUVs. But it’s one of the few federal programs aimed at greening the US transportation sector, which accounts for one-third of carbon dioxide emissions. And the car rules were a centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda, along with the Clean Power Plan (which Trump is planning to dismantle)...
...There are a few ways to think through what would happen if Trump were to weaken the fuel economy standards and/or rescind California’s waivers.
If the standards for cars and light trucks get relaxed, then oil consumption and greenhouse gases will very likely go up. In its midterm review, the EPA estimated that Obama’s proposed 2022-’25 standards would reduce US oil consumption by roughly 1.2 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles and reduce US carbon dioxide emissions by 540 million metric tons. A weaker rule would achieve fewer savings. (For context, the US consumes about 7 billion barrels of oil each year.)
The flip side, says Sam Ori, executive director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, is that the bulk of the savings from Obama’s fuel economy rule have come from the standards that are already locked into place. That’s at least 3 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles, by some estimates. “That’s not going away no matter what the Trump administration does,” Ori says...