EPA moves to pre­serve gas mileage stan­dards

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By Tom Krisher and Michael Biesecker

WASHINGTON — The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency moved Fri­day to ce­ment strict fuel econ­omy re­quire­ments that force the auto in­dus­try to make new cars and trucks sig­nif­i­cantly more ef­fi­cient, a de­ci­sion that will be dif­fi­cult for the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to undo.

The EPA said in late Novem­ber that it had com­pleted a re­quired midterm re­view of Cor­po­rate Av­er­age Fuel Econ­omy stan­dards put in place in 2012 and de­cided they should not be re­laxed as re­quested by the auto in­dus­try. The move in the wan­ing days of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion brought protests from con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and au­tomak­ers, which ac­cused the agency of play­ing pol­i­tics with a rushed de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Fri­day’s ac­tion keeps in place pol­lu­tion re­duc­tion tar­gets for the years 20222025. That means the fleet of new cars will have to av­er­age 51.4 miles per gal­lon by 2025, up more than 18 mpg from the 33.2 mpg re­quire­ment in 2015, the most re­cent year avail­able.

Act­ing EPA As­sis­tant Ad­min­is­tra­tor Janet McCabe said the agency de­ter­mined the tech­nol­ogy is avail­able to meet the stan­dards. The re­quire­ments are flex­i­ble and will au­to­mat­i­cally be re­duced if con­sumers keep buy­ing trucks and SUVs, she said. For ex­am­ple, when the stan­dards were con­ceived in 2012, the fleetwide mileage tar­get for 2025 was 54.5 mpg. But be­cause more trucks and SUVs are now be­ing sold, that num­ber was re­duced to 51.4, the EPA said.

In 2012, gaso­line was $3.60 per gal­lon, com­pared with around $2.35 cur­rently. Dur­ing sev­eral months last year, the SUVs and trucks cap­tured a record share of the mar­ket. At year’s end, nearly six of ev­ery 10 new ve­hi­cles sold were trucks or SUVs.

“You have to ac­com­mo­date con­sumer choice,” McCabe said. “The au­tomak­ers need to have the stan­dards rep­re­sent what peo­ple are buy­ing.”

But the Al­liance of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers, an in­dus­try lob­by­ing group, said the stan­dards rise quickly dur­ing the next eight years and will be dif­fi­cult for com­pa­nies to meet as Amer­ica’s shift to­ward trucks and SUVs con­tin­ues.

“We have the tech­nol­ogy, but if sales aren’t there, we can’t meet the stan­dards,” said Glo­ria Bergquist, spokes­woman for the al­liance. “That’s a reg­u­la­tory-mar­ket­place col­li­sion.”

The in­dus­try has ap­pealed to Trump for help. His tran­si­tion team didn’t re­spond to ques­tions about the EPA’s de­ci­sion.

The EPA’s Janet McCabe says the tech­nol­ogy is avail­able to do the job.

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