Energy & Environment

Trump defends fuel efficiency rollback as ‘helping US autoworkers’

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President Trump defended his rollback of Obama-era auto industry mileage standards amid a wave of criticism Tuesday, saying his administration “is helping U.S. autoworkers.”

“My Administration is helping U.S. auto workers by replacing the failed Obama Emissions Rule. Impossible to satisfy its Green New Deal Standard; Lots of unnecessary and expensive penalties to car buyers!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

The Obama-era standards Trump criticized were finalized in 2012, long before the Green New Deal became part of the lexicon, but those standards did face resistance from some automakers who said they would be too difficult to achieve.

The Trump rule would require automakers to produce a fleet averaging 40 mpg by 2026, rather than the previous requirement to reach 55 mpg by 2025. 

Environmental and consumer groups have slammed the proposal, saying the increase in emissions from vehicles will be bad for public health and the environment, while less fuel efficiency will cost consumers more than they will save. 

But while automakers balked at the Obama standards, the industry has likewise said it could produce more fuel conscious vehicles than what Trump requires.

The Trump rule requires 1.5 percent year-over-year improvements in mileage, compared to 5 percent under the Obama administration. The auto industry has said it could improve fuel efficiency by 2.4 percent each year even without regulation.

Trump later chastised auto executives, seemingly irritated for not getting more buy-in for his proposal.

“My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3500, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer. Engines would run smoother. Positive impact on the environment! Foolish executives!” he tweeted.   

Trump has repeatedly suggested his rule will lower the cost of a vehicle by $3,500, but analysis from both the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency show the average vehicle price to be reduced by $1,400. 

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a major auto industry group, offered little comment on the Trump standards, instead critiquing those of the last administration. 

“The auto industry has consistently called for year-over-year fuel economy and greenhouse gas improvements that also recognize that the standards originally developed almost a decade ago are no longer appropriate in light of shifting market conditions and consumer preferences,” the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the auto industry trade group, said in a statement, nodding to interest in SUVs. 

“The greatest opportunity for environmental benefits will happen as we look to longer-term policies beyond 2026,” it added. 

The administration has argued the reduction in vehicle prices will spur consumers to upgrade to new vehicles that use less gas than many models on the road.

“Get rid of those old, unsafe clunkers,” Trump tweeted. 

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