Trump Administration Takes Time Out Of Busy Pandemic To Make Cars Dirty Again
The beautiful Los Angeles of 1960 (UCLA Library/LA Times Photographic Archive)

The Trump administration rolled out the final version of its vehicle fuel-efficiency rules Tuesday, meaning that Trump will finally have eliminated tougher standards put in place under Barack Obama. The auto industry didn't particularly want the new rules, and several automakers plan to support higher gas-mileage standards planned by California, but now the rules are here and they're going to make you happy if you know what's good for you. The administration has had a hard time presenting any logical rationale for the rules beyond the fact that Obama wanted to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which of course is all the reason needed to dump his regulations.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a joint statement with the Transportation Department that the new rules delivered "on President Trump's promise to correct the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards." No, of course he didn't explicitly spell out what needed "correcting." But clearly, dirtier air is a good thing for everyone:

Our final rule puts in place a sensible one national program that strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry. This rule supports our economy, and the safety of American families.

The statement reads a lot more plausibly if you imagine a guy in a suit making the universal jerking-off gesture.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also attempted to justify relaxing fuel efficiency standards by claiming the new rules would magically make cars less expensive, so more people could afford newer, safer cars:

This rule reflects the Department's #1 priority — safety — by making newer, safer, cleaner vehicles more accessible for Americans who are, on average, driving 12-year-old cars. By making newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles more accessible for American families, more lives will be saved and more jobs will be created.

You know, whenever the coronavirus shutdown of the entire industry is over. Chao didn't say whether car companies would be allowed to count the oxygen output of the ventilators some may be building as part of their fleet fuel efficiency numbers.

The Obama standards would have required automakers to improve fuel efficiency by roughly five percent a year through 2026, with average fleet fuel efficiency of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. Instead, the new Trump rules will require only about 1.5 percent improvements each model year, meaning average fuel efficiency by 2025 would only have to be 40 MPG.

That's slightly better than the original proposal to gut the Obama standards. The first draft would have frozen efficiency requirements where they are right now. The very modest increases actually came after US automakers complained that keeping the 2020 standards in place for years would put them at a disadvantage in the global marketplace.

Even with the negligible improvement, the new rules will result in emissions of over a billion more tons of carbon dioxide over the life of the US vehicle fleet, compared to the Obama rules, according to the Environmental Working Group. As the Washington Postpoints out, that's equivalent to the CO2 emissions that would result from "running 237 coal power plants for a year, according to the EPA's online calculator." And that's in a country where there are, as of January this year, just 280 coal-fired power plants still operating.

But what about the much much safer cars, huh? The logic is that since vehicles would be cheaper if automakers don't have to pass on the costs of making them more efficient, more people would buy more newer cars. So over the life of those new cars, the administration claims, there would be 3,300 fewer traffic deaths. (WaPo notes that's a big reduction from an earlier draft's estimate of 12,700 fewer traffic fatalities.) Mind you, those supposed reductions in traffic deaths are offset a teensy bit by people dying due to dirtier air:

The rule projects between 440 and 990 premature deaths would occur due to air pollution during that same period, though Environmental Protection Agency officials said the number may be slightly lower.

Needless to say, the analysis doesn't get into the larger question of how refusing to slow carbon emissions will affect lives otherwise, because global warming is a myth made up by China to hurt American consumers.

We should also note that the administration appears to have completely dropped its original bullshit justification for scrapping the Obama standards, which was that if cars continue to get crappier gas mileage, people would choose to drive less than if most vehicles were more efficient. For some reason, the EPA has dropped the argument that good gas mileage might kill you.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been fighting the administration's effort to quash California's separate, higher mileage standards, issued a statement saying the rule would

"fail to increase fuel economy." That's because the ­industry is already making ­improvements "on their own at 2 percent without the rule," the statement said.

They also wrote that the rule "will not save lives" and "is a wash at best. Increased air pollution will likely take more lives than the plan purports to save."

The one good thing about the new rules is that they're likely to be caught up in lawsuits for the rest of 2020 at least, so there's some chance a new president and Congress might nip them in the bud. And like other industries, the auto industry would really just like to have some certainty about what the standards will be, instead of endless lawsuits.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump took to Twitter with a bunch of lies and nonsense, accusing automakers who prefer stable government of being a bunch of hippie weirdos:

Needless to say, that's some bullshit, as WaPo explains:

Those claims are inaccurate or contradicted by information released by his agencies. The Transportation Department says Trump's rule would cut car prices by "about $1,000." Lowering the standards will add pollution, not make it better. And the administration rule does not govern the safety of automobiles.

Other than that, the new rules are brilliant and very good, and most importantly, they give Barack Obama the middle finger.

[NBC News / EPA news release / Environmental Working Group / WaPo / Global Energy Monitor]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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