Trump Dumps Obama Rules on Fuel Efficiency for Cars

Environmentalists warn that rolling back standards will make it even harder to clean up smog and improve air quality in New Jersey

President Donald Trump’s move to put a hold on new fuel-economy standards for cars will make it more difficult to clean up pollution in New Jersey and curb emissions causing global warming, according to environmentalists.

In ordering a review of stringent rules adopted by the Obama administration, the president heeded warnings from automakers that the standards would be costly to comply with and hinder efforts to boost car manufacturing in the United States.

But environmentalists noted that the transportation sector is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, and also a big factor in New Jersey’s failure to meet federal air-quality health standards for ground-level ozone or smog.

“Since cars and trucks are the biggest sources of air pollution, it will directly impact public health in New Jersey,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Strip away regulations

In announcing the review after a meeting with auto executives in Detroit, Trump said the step is the first to strip away regulations that have hampered the sector and revise the industry in this country.

But critics assailed the move, saying it will cost motorists more at the gasoline pump, increase pollution contributing to climate change, and stall innovation in the sector.

The decision will give auto manufacturers another opportunity to relax the Obama administration’s standards adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection in January, which opponents said would be difficult to meet.

The standards were projected to result in average fleet-wide consumer fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025 — much higher than the current fleet average of 36 mpg. The rules were first adopted in 2012, but subject to a midterm evaluation.

‘Letting auto manufacturers off the hook…’

In New Jersey, environmentalists have long argued the state is doing too little to clamp down on pollution from the transportation sector, including tailpipe and diesel emissions.

“Letting auto manufacturers off the hook is going to make it more expensive to fuel up at the pump and there also will be a big climate cost,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

With most of New Jersey counties failing to meet the national health-quality standard for ozone, now is not the time to be blasé about smog pollution, O’Malley added.

In the long term, the decision to hold back on the tougher fuel-efficiency standards could wind up hurting the auto sector, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

‘Excessive fuel mandates…’

“In an intensely competitive global vehicle market that is heading toward highly efficient, low-emissions vehicles, U.S. manufacturers need to keep moving forward,’’ said Therese Langer, the council’s transportation program director.

Business groups, however, praised the review.

Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Release, described the rollback of the Obama regulation a win for working-class Americans. “For many, car ownership is essential to their daily lives, but excessive fuel mandates make it increasingly difficult for millions of Americans to afford a car.’’

But others argued that, even with the current lower fuel costs, the proposed standards would be cost effective.

“What he (Trump) is doing is taking the side of the oil industry and some in the car industry who would rather make profits selling giant SUVs than fuel-efficient cars,’’ Tittel said.