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EPA rows back on US vehicle emissions standards

New EPA administration claims previous standards set the bar too high.

An announcement by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, stated that the standards set under the Obama administration would be relaxed for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025 - a commitment made by President Trump to autoworkers last year.

Scott Pruitt conference

Scott Pruitt announces standards relaxation Image: US EPA

Pruitt also revealed that the waiver granted by the EPA to California to set its own, stricter standards was under review, although federal and Californian standards are currently similar.

The EPA move comes after pressure from some automakers who have seen a significant boost in sales of less fuel-efficient pickup and SUV vehicles.  Pruitt stated that the standards, which had required cars and light trucks sold in the US to average more than 50mpg by 2025, were: "not appropriate and should be revised."

He added that the previous standards: "presents challenges for auto manufacturers due to feasibility and practicability, raises potential concerns related to automobile safety, and results in significant additional costs on consumers, especially low-income consumers.” However, both Ford and Honda had recently reinforced their backing of the stricter standards on the basis that manufacturers were given additional flexibility.

Led by California, the EPA announcement was met with immediate criticism. Around 12 states currently follow California's emmission rules, leading to a joint statement from a number of state legislators stating: "This move sets us back from years of advancements by the automotive industry put in motion by states that took the lead in setting emission standards. These standards have cleared the haze and smog from our cities and reversed decades of chronic air pollution problems, while putting more money in consumers’ pockets.”

Ironically, the EPA announcement comes at a time when the US appears to be leading the way in emissions reduction.  According to the latest statistics from the International Energy Agency, whilst most major economies experienced a rise in emissions in 2017, the US showed the biggest decline, dropping 0.5%, or 25 mega-tonnes of CO2. This was the third consecutive annual reduction in the US.

A report by the European Federation for Transport and the Environment at the beginning of 2018 also showed clear evidence that the latest heavy-duty fuel standards set in the US are having a positive effect.  The research analysed a variety of factors before and after the standards were introduced in 2011.   The results showed an overall gain in fuel efficiency of 24%, equating to an $8,200 cost saving for a large truck, compared with six years previously. The stats predict that US trucks will overtake their EU counterparts as the worlds' most efficient fleet by the early 2020s.

Tags: automotive industry, CO2 emissions, N America

Published 18th April, 2018

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