Trump plan to review vehicle fuel efficiency rules draws criticism

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By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump’s plans to
reassess strict U.S. vehicle fuel-efficiency standards put in
place under former President Barack Obama drew criticism on
Wednesday from Democrats and environmental groups who accused
him of risking more carbon emissions and higher fuel costs.

The move by Trump – to be announced on a trip to the heart
of America’s auto industry in suburban Detroit – is a victory
for automakers which say the current rules are too expensive,
could cost jobs and are out of step with vehicles consumers want
to buy.

But the Republican president will not seek to revoke
California’s authority to set vehicle efficiency rules even
stricter than federal rules as part of this move, a White House
official said. The official did not rule out seeking to withdraw
California’s authority in the future.

The Obama administration’s rules, negotiated with automakers
in 2012, were aimed at doubling average fleetwide fuel
efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025. In January, shortly before Trump
took office, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency locked that
goal in place in a move that disappointed car manufacturers.

A White House official said Trump will announce that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reverse the Obama
administration’s action to lock in the standards and will spend
a year reviewing whether those rules are feasible. The
administration has made no decisions on how or if the standards
should be revised, the official said.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council
environmental group, called the move another part of Trump’s
retreat from action to combat climate change.

“This change makes no sense,” Suh said. “Mileage standards
save consumers money at the gas pump, make Americans less
dependent on oil, reduce carbon pollution and advance
innovation. The current standards helped the auto companies move
from bankruptcy to profitability, and there is no reason they
cannot be met.”

In Michigan, Trump will meet with chief executives from
General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler
Automobiles NV and top U.S. executives from
Toyota Motor Corp, Daimler AG and others, and speak
to autoworkers.

‘WRONG WAY’

Democratic Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts said
Trump’s move will lead to needless uncertainty for the auto
industry.

“Filling up their cars and trucks is the energy bill
Americans pay most often, but President Trump’s roll-back of
fuel economy emissions standards means families will end up
paying more at the pump,” Markey added.

Under the 2012 agreement with the industry, the EPA was
given until April 2018 to decide whether the standards were
feasible under a “midterm review,” but the agency moved up its
decision to a week before Obama left office in a bid to maintain
a key part of his administration’s environmental legacy.

Automakers say they need more flexibility to meet the rules
amid low gas prices. Environmentalists have vowed to sue if the
Trump administration weakens them.

California, the most populous U.S. state, has long drawn the
ire of automakers for setting more aggressive environmental
vehicle rules, including requiring zero emission cars.

Thirteen other states have adopted California rules that
account for about 40 percent of U.S. vehicle sales.

California has a waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its
own vehicle rules and has said it would vigorously fight any
effort to revoke it.

Trump’s EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, an ally of the fossil fuel
industry, would not commit during his Senate confirmation
hearing to allowing California to continue its own clean vehicle
rules.

Each Detroit automaker will bring about 500 people to
Trump’s event on Wednesday, bused in from auto plants, technical
centers and headquarters. The automakers said they wanted an
array of union hourly workers, salaried office workers and
engineers as well as executives at the event.

In the United States, which accounts for about 10 percent of
global gasoline usage, demand hit a record in 2016, averaging
9.3 million barrels per day, surpassing 2007 levels, according
to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Changes in fuel
efficiency standards in the United States can dictate investment
decisions due to the country’s heavy consumption of the fuel.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey)



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