WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to relax ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards and raise the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come, gutting one of the United States’ single-biggest efforts against climate change.
The Trump administration is expected to release a final rule Tuesday on mileage standards through 2026, watering down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers globally to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles.
Trump’s Cabinet heads have continued a push to rollback public health and environment regulations despite the coronavirus outbreak riveting the world’s attention. The administration — like others before it — is facing procedural rules that will make changes adopted before the last six months of Trump’s current term tougher to throw out, even if the White House changes occupants.
The Trump administration says the looser mileage standards will allow consumers to keep buying the less fuel-efficient SUVs that U.S. drivers have favored for years. Opponents say it will undercut the Obama administration’s legacy effort to cut climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions, and will kill hundreds more Americans a year through dirtier air, compared to the Obama standards.
The standards have split the auto industry with Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen siding with California and agreeing to higher standards. Most other automakers contend the Obama-era standards were enacted hastily and will be impossible to meet because consumers have shifted dramatically away from efficient cars to SUVs and trucks.
The Obama administration mandated 5% annual increases in fuel economy. Leaked versions of the Trump administration’s latest proposal show a 1.5% annual increase, backing off from its initial proposal simply to stop mandating increases in fuel efficiency after 2020.
The transportation sector is the nation’s largest source of climate-changing emissions.