cafe standards

How the Federal Government Came to Control Your Car's Fuel Economy

Read time: 5 mins
Cars wait in line for gas during the 1970s energy crisis
By Brian C. Black, Pennsylvania State University

The Environmental Protection Agency in August announced a plan to freeze fuel economy standards and revoke the ability of California to set more stringent rules than the national ones, prompting a legal showdown between the state and the federal government.

The proposal, which would keep fuel economy at planned 2020 levels, is the most significant step to halt the rise on the mileage standards of the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet in decades.

But how did fuel efficiency even become mandated? After all, manufacturers go to great lengths to analyze the consumer marketplace and build in the most tantalizing features to create top sellers, whether it’s great acceleration or a deep bass sound system. One feature is different, though: Carmakers are legally bound to innovate more efficiency into their vehicles.

These Auto Industry Companies Are Demanding Strong Clean Car Standards, Despite Trump

Read time: 4 mins
Average MPG on a dashboard

There’s a major sector of the automobile industry that is unwavering in its support of strong clean car standards: auto parts manufacturers.

Carmakers, through the powerful Auto Alliance trade group, have flip-flopped on fuel economy and emissions targets for cars and light duty trucks — claiming they aren’t for rollbacks even after lobbying for them. On the other hand, auto parts suppliers have consistently argued on behalf of strong national standards, going against the direction currently pursued by the Trump administration.

On Rollbacks, Automakers Tell Trump 'Not So Fast,' Kochs Say 'Burn More Gas'

Read time: 5 mins
Trump and Pence meet with automaker industry leaders

It’s a classic case of be careful what you wish for. Automakers asked the Trump administration to weaken emissions and efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, and are now anxious about just how much the Trump administration actually plans to weaken the standards.

On Friday, May 12, heads of car companies visited the White House, to make the awkward request that Trump not actually give them what they asked for.

Low Octane: The Surprising Reason Shale Oil Makes a Poor Fuel for High-Tech Cars and Trucks

Read time: 7 mins
Gas pump

Shale oil, which the Energy Information Administration projects will represent a rising proportion of American oil supplies in the coming decades, has a surprising Achilles heel: its low octane levels, which make it a poor fit for the high-efficiency car engines of the future.

Koch vs. California: These Groups Are Pushing Pruitt to Undo the State’s Right to Regulate Auto Emissions

Read time: 10 mins
Los Angeles traffic backed up

A coalition of conservative groups, many with close ties to the Koch brothers, are calling for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to strip California of its right to set stricter greenhouse gas limits for personal vehicles.

Not satisfied with Pruitt’s decision to rewrite the Obama-era emissions standards — which had been written cooperatively with the automakers, state of California, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and EPA — the American Consumer Institute (ACI) organized a letter to Pruitt calling “for the revocation of California’s waiver from the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to decouple from federal policy and impose strict emission standards on automobiles.”

When asked about this threat on the sidelines of the BNEF Future of Energy Summit, the chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, told Desmog, “I don't think they're going to do that.”

Pruitt, Auto Industry, and Climate Deniers Retreat Behind Closed Doors to Weaken Fuel Efficiency Targets

Read time: 7 mins
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announcing rollback of Obama fuel efficiency standards

On Tuesday, April 3, surrounded by representatives of the auto industry and conservative climate deniers, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt formally announced his decision to rewrite greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light duty trucks, undercutting one of the Obama administration’s most effective climate programs.

From the last-minute, controversial venue change to the hypocritical messaging of its attendees, the announcement reflected the new normal in Trump's Washington: the placement of industry influence and climate science denial front and center.

Bill Wehrum Once Denied California's Right to Cut Auto Emissions, and Could Do It Again at EPA

Read time: 11 mins
Bill Wehrum

More than a decade ago, Bill Wehrum, then acting assistant administrator for air and radiation at the US Environmental Protection Agency, successfully fought to deny the state of California the right to set its own standards on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

He is now back in the same position at Trump's EPA, and hoping to try once again to kill the California waiver.

Maryland Passes Ban Bill, Will Become Third State to Block Fracking

Read time: 8 mins
Rally to ban fracking in front of a Maryland government building

In a historic vote Monday night, Maryland's Senate passed a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — expected to be signed into law by the state's Republican governor — making the state the third in the U.S. to reject the controversial technique. The 35–10 Senate vote came shortly after the state's House of Delegates approved the ban in a 97–40 vote.

Crucially, the state's governor, Republican Larry Hogan, recently announced that he was no longer convinced that fracking could be done safely if properly regulated and that a ban was necessary. Hogan said he will support the ban, making his state the first state with shale gas reserves to enact a fracking ban through legislation.

Improving Gas Mileage Will Cost up to 40 Percent Less than EPA Estimated: New Report

Read time: 6 mins
Hand on a gas pump filling a car

It may be far cheaper than previously estimated for American car manufacturers to meet fuel efficiency standards — slashing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and helping drivers keep the cost of filling their gas tanks low — because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might have overestimated the price tag on innovation by as much as 40 percent, a newly published report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) concludes.

The report comes a week after President Donald Trump visited Detroit and his administration lauched efforts expected to roll back federal standards requiring automakers to make new cars far more fuel efficient by 2025. However, the federal government isn't the only regulator in the U.S. with the authority to set emissions standards for cars.

Trump Takes Aim at Fuel Efficiency Requirements, Prompting Concern US Automakers Will Lag on Innovation

Read time: 8 mins
Donald Trump

In a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Wednesday (March 15), President Donald Trump handed a victory to the oil industry, in a move that will have severe and long-lasting ramifications for the climate — and could leave American automakers lagging far behind in the emerging world market for highly fuel-efficient vehicles.

Trump announced he was taking the first steps to rollback rules requiring automakers to build increasingly fuel-efficient cars in a speech delivered to CEO's from some of the nation's largest automakers, including GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota of North America.

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