Energy & Environment

Biden administration boosts mileage standards slashed by Trump

David McNew/Getty Images

The Transportation Department on Friday announced that it boosted car efficiency standards that had been cut by the Trump administration. 

The department finalized standards that would require automakers to produce fleets of cars and light trucks averaging 49 miles per gallon in model year 2026

The new standards are more stringent than the Trump-era standards, which would have required 40 miles per gallon for the 2026 fleet.

However, the real-world totals may look slightly different under each standard, as the department has noted that real-world fuel economy levels are typically lower than the test conditions under which the standards are applied. 

Nevertheless, the standards are expected to have both climate and consumer benefits, and officials made the case on Friday that they will also improve the country’s energy independence by decreasing our reliance on oil. 

“We cannot let families’ futures or our national economy be decided in oil company board rooms,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters. “Today’s rule is going to save 234 billion gallons of fuel by 2050 and move us into a less dependent future.”

On climate change, the rule is also expected to have significant impacts. Buttigieg said that it would prevent 5.5 trillion pounds of planet-warming carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere by 2050. 

And the administration said that the new regulation would save consumers almost $1,400 in fuel expenses over the lifetimes of vehicles produced during these model years.

The transportation sector is the largest contributor to climate change in the U.S., and light duty vehicles are responsible for more than half of those emissions.

The move comes after the Environmental Protection Agency late last year also reversed the Trump administration’s cuts to regulations on how much planet-warming carbon dioxide cars can emit through their tailpipes. 

The set of clean car standards is expected to push automakers towards producing more electric vehicles. 

The requirements come as some industry players have announced in recent months that they plan to incorporate a greater share of electric vehicles into their fleets, and President Biden has called for 50 percent of vehicle sales to be electric in 2030.

Friday’s standards are expected to result in 8 percent annual increases in efficiency for model years 2024 and 2025 and a 10 percent increase for 2026. 

But some environmentalists argued that the administration should have selected an even more stringent standard after it evaluated a range of options before deciding on its current regulation. 

“Technology improvements and the urgent need to reduce our dependence on oil means that more could be done,” said Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles and fuels at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Updated at 2:29 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Fuel Efficiency Standards Joe Biden mileage standards Pete Buttigieg Transportation Department

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