Trump Puts Brakes On Fuel Economy Overregulation

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Steve Milloy Contributor
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The Trump deregulation train is rolling on, this time right over two sacred cows of the progressive over-regulatory state: the Obama administration’s pointless and harmful fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks and California’s bid to usurp federal power and become the national standard setter for fuel economy and consumer car choice.

In 2012, the Obama administration issued new, more stringent fuel economy standards (called “Corporate Average Fuel Economy,” or “CAFE” standards) intended to compel car makers to raise their fleet average to 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The Trump administration may soon propose to freeze the CAFE standard at the 2020 level of 35 miles per gallon.

The Trump CAFE proposal will not only save consumers money — it will save lives.

The Obama CAFE mandate is estimated to raise the price of new cars by $3,000 by 2025, according to the National Auto Dealers Association. The Trump repeal is estimated by the Heritage Foundation to save car buyers at least at least $7,200 per vehicle in 2025.

Higher car prices are a regressive tax on all Americans that especially hit the poor.

The Obama administration entirely ignored safety in establishing the existing CAFE standards. You don’t need to be a physicist to understand that heavier, more “armored” cars are safer cars. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that a CAFE standard of 27.5 miles per gallon had resulted in 2,600 extra accident fatalities in 1993.

Only the progressive regulatory state imagines that consumers want to pay more for less safe cars — all in the name of saving gasoline in a world that is awash in oil.

The CAFE program was established amid the oil price shocks and foreign oil cartel-imposed scarcity of the 1970s. But times have changed. Thanks to technological advances, the US is poised once again to be the largest producer of oil in the world.

The other key benefit of the Trump CAFE proposal is the thwarting of California’s bid to tell the rest of the nation what kind of cars it may buy.

When the Clean Air Act was amended in 1970, EPA was authorized to give California various waivers to set its own air quality-related standards. This made sense at the time because of special circumstances in California. But almost 50 years later, the circumstances have changed. California’s air is clean and safe.

But instead of reining in California’s waivers and runaway air quality regulations, the Obama administration gave California another waiver to set its own fuel economy standards under the guise of reducing global warming. The car makers agreed to this because, after being bailed out by the federal government, they didn’t want to rock the boat and have to meet two sets of regulatory standards.

Now what many liberal California politicians want to do is ban gasoline-powered cars altogether. A bill before the California legislature would ban all gas- and diesel-powered cars by 2040.

The Trump administration is trying to bring all this under control by reasserting the federal preeminence envisioned by Congress when it wrote the relevant laws. Trump administration CAFE efforts are about cost, consumer choice and who gets to set national policy — the federal government or California.

Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com, is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fx the EPA” and was on the Trump EPA transition team.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.