Stuck at home and distracted by coronavirus on an endless loop, Americans can be excused for missing the Trump administration’s latest broadside against the climate. Even some polluters think this one is misguided.
Last week, Environmental Protection Agency officials announced that the federal government would undo 2012 regulations that required auto manufacturers to achieve a fleet fuel efficiency average of 54.5 miles per gallon by the 2025 model year. This was the most aggressive action to combat climate change taken during the Obama administration.
As soon as President Trump took office in 2017, car manufacturers asked for relief. They wanted a slower rollout, perhaps with somewhat lower mpg or a later deadline. They wanted credit for the efforts that had already been made.
Instead, the Trump administration saw another chance to erase Obama’s legacy.
The revised regulations would improve efficiency standards by 1.5 percent a year. Obama standards were 5 percent. The auto industry is already improving fuel economy by 2.4 percent.
The rollback is so egregious that several automakers are expected to join California in a suit to stop it. It is not out of some deep-seated concern for the air. It is because the end result of years of expensive litigation would likely result in two different national standards, Trump’s and California’s.
Automakers are facing the financial horror of a bifurcated market. Scientists estimate hundreds more Americans will die every year from pollution-related conditions.
Even government officials who drafted the plan admit that as much as a billion more tons of carbon dioxide would be released into the air. Over their lifetime, cars built to the relaxed standards would consume an additional 80 billion gallons of gasoline.
The only winners in this move are the fossil fuel industry and Trump, but only if one thinks taking down Obama a peg or two counts as a win.