It is hardly surprising the Trump administration has decided to freeze Obama-era fuel requirements but their given reason for doing so is especially ridiculous, even by their standards.
The move, described as "one of the biggest regulatory rollbacks of the Trump presidency" by The Washington Post, will involve maintaining fuel-efficiency targets from 2020 for six years. That means the average mileage per gallon (mpg) will stick around 35, instead of rising to 50mpg by 2025 as they would need to under the current guidelines.
The administration has been unabashedly pro-industry in its policy decisions so far and the change to fuel standards may be welcome news to the oil industry, as the Union of Concerned Scientists has already pointed out. But that is not the reason they have given for the freeze. Oh no. The policy has been named the “Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Rule" and the White House wants it implemented because, you know, health and safety.
According to extracts seen by reporters at The Associated Press (AP), the proposal claims tougher regulations on fuel (as per the Obama-era regulation) would offer more mileage for your buck and so encourage people to drive their cars more frequently. This, it says, will put people at a greater risk of crashing. In fact, it goes on to add, relaxing fuel standards as proposed could save as many as 1,000 lives every single year. Er, right.
First of all, research from the World Economic Forum undermines the administration's assumption that fuel-efficient vehicles encourage people to drive more. Second, it is wrong to say more cars on the road will automatically cause more car-related fatalities. There are far more cars on the road today than there were in the 1960s and '70s, yet fewer accidents and fewer deaths – we have better safety regulations and technology to thank for that. Third, it forgets to mention fatalities caused by pollution, the very thing the fuel requirements were intended to reduce in the first place. According to recent estimates, anywhere between 3 million and 9 million people around the world die from pollution every year. Diesel emissions in the European Union alone are responsible for killing 10,000 people annually.
The proposal goes on to say that without the burden of regulation, car manufacturers would be able to build cars that are cheaper (and also heavier), which would make consumers inclined to replace their current cars with a newer model. Not everyone agrees these regulation freezes will benefit the consumer.
According to Energy Innovation, the rollback will cost $450 billion by 2050 and increase emissions by 11 percent by 2035.
And while passengers in heavier cars do fare better in the event of a crash, a 2017 study found that as long as weight reduction is implemented across the whole spectrum of vehicles geared towards consumers, the number of fatalities decrease.
"The idea that fuel efficiency standards are causing vehicles to be less safe is ludicrous," executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, Jack Gillis, told Bloomberg.
"The U.S. auto industry has just experienced its two largest selling years in history, and fuel efficiency is helping. People love their SUVs and pickups, but they love them even more when they save money on gas."
[H/T: The Associated Press]