Rather than heed growing concerns about climate change, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has formally moved to nix the Obama administration's carefully written rules. In 2012, the EPA set standards that aimed to halve the global warming pollution from new cars and light trucks by 2025. It made those tailpipe limits in coordination with the Department of Transportation's separate fuel-economy standards, which targeted a near doubling of new vehicle miles-per-gallon over the same time frame.
Embracing auto lobbyists' rhetoric, Pruitt declared in a press release that the existing policy "didn't comport with reality, and set the standards too high."
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As a scholar who has researched automotive technology gains in recent decades, I believe this move is not justified by either a lack of technical know-how or the decline in prices at the pump since the government issued its standards six years ago. My own research has long shown that engineering advances offer many ways to ramp up fuel economy and cut tailpipe emissions without making vehicles too costly.
This backward step was no surprise. The day after Donald Trump's election victory, auto industry lobbyists dusted off their anti-regulatory scripts and pleaded their case to the incoming White House.
Automakers pressed for weaker standards, arguing that the necessary technologies cost too much, would not be ready on time, and ran counter to consumer trends.
However, I believe that the EPA had more than adequately addressed these concerns in the draft report it issued in July 2016. That analysis built on the earlier technology and economic assessments that justified the landmark standards established four years earlier.