White House Looks to Cut Fuel Economy Standards

A draft analysis should please auto manufacturers but not regulators in California.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering lowering fuel economy standards at the request of automakers, who’ve objected to goals adopted by the Obama White House.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing options including one that would allow an average fuel economy standard of 35.7 miles a gallon by 2016, versus the 46.6 miles a gallon target set under the prior administration, according to Bloomberg News, which cited a draft NHTSA analysis. 

The document obtained by the news agency had the federal agency projecting 10 percent of new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would have to be hybrid or plug-in electric to meet the standards. Under the Obama administration proposal, the figure would have been 61 percent.

The draft, dated Jan. 22, indicated that the NHTSA could propose standards for as soon as the 2021 model year and as far ahead as model year 2026. The agency plans to start the process of setting new fuel economy rules for 2022 to 2025 at the end of next month.

The proposal could put the White House at odds with regulators in California, who’ve been meeting with their federal counterparts on having a single set of requirements for U.S. vehicle emissions. 

In a statement emailed to The Drive, the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, said the state agency had not received any documents or analyses from any federal agencies.

Still, “we are fully convinced that the way forward to protect public health, address climate change and save consumers money at the pump is with increased fuel efficiency and electrification, not less,” a CARB spokesperson said. 

Beyond the environmental and consumer ramifications, CARB believes the U.S. auto industry needs to “keep pace with the rest of the world” in order to stay competitive globally, the CARB spokesperson added. “That’s where California is moving.”