As it was expected for the better part of the last year since automakers have been pushing for it and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wasn’t expected to hold its ground under the Trump administration, EPA head Scott Pruitt finally confirmed that they plan to lower the fuel consumption standards – allowing automakers to sell more polluting cars.

Officially, they said that they will implement “more appropriate” GHG emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, but Pruitt confirmed that they will be lowered:

“The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong. Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.”

During the Obama era, automakers agreed to a plan to double their fleet wide average fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025 in the US.

The plan would have encouraged them mass produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, like electric vehicles, in order to compensate for their highly profitable SUVs and pickup trucks.

Even though they originally agreed to the rule, the industry launched a renewed effort to change the rules since the election of Donald Trump as President and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA.

The automaker lobbying group, which includes virtually every automaker except for Tesla and a few French automakers, sent a letter to Trump’s transition team just two days after his election to lobby for him to relax the rules.

They have kept the pressure on since, but it was seen as an easy battle to win with Trump putting Pruitt, a known anti-EPA advocate and a paid oil industry shill, in charge of the EPA.

Now that the federal government made it clear that they don’t plan to force automakers to make more efficient vehicles, a lot is up to California to push for a cleaner industry.

California can impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions through a CAA waiver granted by EPA, which they now want to remove the waiver.

Pruitt said today:

“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country. EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It is in America’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard,”

Any effort to force California to comply is expected to be contested in court.

Electrek’s Take

What’s most disgusting here is the EPA’s role is clearly to protect the environment and environmental groups unanimously agreed that they should have kept the standards or even make them stricter.

The only groups asking for lower standards were the automakers and oil industry and yet, that’s who the agency is in charge of protecting the environment decided to listen to.

Pruitt even used the same false argument used by automaker lobbying groups that “people don’t want and can’t afford” electric vehicles.

Shame to all the automakers who backed this effort through the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers.

Ultimately, it’s inevitable that those companies will move to all-electric vehicles and they probably know it, but they are trying to buy a few more years during which they can sell more polluting vehicles, like SUVs and pickup trucks, which are more profitable for them.

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