The Trump administration's plans for addressing vehicle emissions may not be as good for society as an Obama administration rule, according to a review released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent science board.
The analysis from the Science Advisory Board (SAB) found “significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis” of the 2018 Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule.
The Trump administration has argued that reducing fuel economy requirements will allow automakers to produce more affordable cars. As customers replace older gas guzzlers with new cars, officials argued, overall emissions output will decline.
Those new emissions targets would be rolled out alongside a measure that would freeze average fuel economy at 37 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2026 rather than the 54.5 mpg ordered by the Obama administration.
But the Trump administration's analysis of the U.S. vehicle market and the costs and benefits of the rule was flawed because it overestimated the positive outcome of a rule significantly weaker than what it replaces, the SAB said in its report.
“Together with other problems and inconsistencies, the issues are of sufficient magnitude that the estimated net benefits of the proposed revision may be substantially overstated,” the report said. “The standards in the 2012 [Obama-era] rule might provide a better outcome for society than the proposed revision.”
When reached for comment, an EPA spokesperson insisted the Trump administration's rule “will reduce air emissions and ensure vehicle fuel efficiency.”
The proposal has been a source of frequent controversy for the Trump administration, spurring a legal battle with California as well as an allegation that EPA chief Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Former EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center Lobbying world MORE misled Congress about career employees’ involvement in formulating it.
The SAB also weighed in on President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE’s decision to revoke a waiver that allows California to set tougher tailpipe emissions than the federal government.
“Withdrawal of the waiver, which is a significant change in policy on its own, should be explicitly analyzed in order to clarify its independent impacts on social benefits and costs,” the report said.