EPA moves to preserve gas mileage standards
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.