After hinting that it would roll back clean vehicle regulations last month, the Trump administration made it official on Thursday. It announced it would be putting Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards on hold and moving to replace them with watered-down regulations.
The plan calls for 2020 fuel-efficiency standards to be frozen in place through 2026 while sorting out what a new rule could look like, as well as ending California’s ability to set its own, more stringent standards. The end result will be a huge uptick in carbon emissions.
The Obama rules were made in 2012 after consultation with the auto industry and would have increased car fuel-efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2026. The new proposal—announced by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation—would freeze efficiency standards at 43.7 mpg through model year 2026.
California has the ability to set even stricter standards for auto emissions, thanks to a waiver the EPA granted the state in 2013. There are a dozen other states that follow those standards as well. Revoking that waiver, despite the EPA commitment to “cooperative federalism,” is an, uh, odd move.
Robbie Orvis, an analyst with policy research group Energy Innovation, told Earther that revoking California’s waiver is “not in the spirit of the Clean Air Act, and the way it’s been implemented in the past.”
On an existential front, the new rule proposal will commit a hell of a lot more carbon to the atmosphere. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that it will result in an extra 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere in 2030. That’s the equivalent of adding 30 coal-fired power plants to the grid.