Report: Trump Fuel Standards Rollback to Cost $457 Billion

This is all just modelling and you get out of a model whatever you put in.  And you can be sure that the benefits of avoiding lightweight cars -- which the Obama standards would mandate -- were not included. Lightweight cars give less protection in an accident so cost lives.  How do you cost lives saved?

And one of the "costs" in their modelling -- global warming -- is just a chimera.

The only benefit in the Obama regulations that I can see is less money spent on fuel. But that is a personal cost not a cost to government.  And fuel costs are much more influenced by the ever changing prices charged at the pump rather than anything else.  And Trump's phone call to King Salman of Saudi Arabia will almost certainly do more to arrange affordable fuel than any set of regulations would.  Keeping fuel prices down is a laudable goal but there are many better ways of arranging that than mandating that people drive around in eggshell cars.

As for California keeping it's own stringent standards, the interstate commerce power clearly gives the Feds authority to regulate anything to do with motor vehicles, regardless of anything governor moonbeam might claim

The Trump administration is expected to announce a pause on vehicle emissions standards this week, setting less stringent levels than Obama-era rules and revoking California’s authority to set its own standards. A forecast released Tuesday from clean energy advocacy group Energy Innovation suggests that the policy change will cost the country $457 billion.

Those costs are fuel-related, and do not account for health implications. The group also linked the policy to over 13,000 additional pollution-related deaths.

“It’s hard to overstate the foolishness of this move,” said Hal Harvey, CEO at Energy Innovation.

According to reports on the administration’s plans, Trump officials will keep fuel emissions standards at the 35 mpg fleet average required in 2020. The Obama administration had increased those requirements to 50 miles per gallon, or 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving, by 2025.

The Trump administration’s rollback was widely anticipated after Scott Pruitt, then Environmental Protection Agency administrator, announced in April that an agency review of the standards determined they should be revised in a joint process with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The plan expected this week would also do away with California’s waiver to set standards more stringent than national requirements, granted by the Environmental Protection Agency under Clean Air Act authority. California’s policies also include EV targets.

Since the administration undertook a review of the standards in March 2017, California has steadfastly defended its legal right to make its own policies. In April, California Governor Jerry Brown said the EPA’s plan to revise standards represented a "cynical and meretricious abuse of power [that] will poison our air and jeopardize the health of all Americans.” In May, the state sued the federal government along with 16 other states and Washington, D.C. Thirteen states plus D.C. use California’s emissions requirements over the federal standards.

Energy Innovation’s analysis finds that economic losses will be most dramatic if the Trump administration revokes California’s waiver. While the policy will bring initial economic gains resulting from the reduced cost of producing less-efficient cars, around 2025 the policy will start costing the country money. Losses accelerate beyond 2030. If the administration leaves California’s waiver in place, the predicted losses will ring in at $274 billion.

The organization’s calculation uses its open-source, peer-reviewed Energy Policy Simulator, which accounts for several sectors of the economy including transportation, land use, electricity supply, buildings, industry and agriculture.

Modeled as a gas tax, Energy Innovation said the policy would top out at an added 57 cents per gallon in 2040.

Loosening emissions standards would also inevitably increase greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Innovation expects the greatest increases in the 2030s, before electric vehicles undercut the share of gas-powered cars. In 2035, the group forecasts an 11 percent increase in emissions with a revocation of the California waiver and a 7 percent increase if the waiver is left in place.

The Obama administration often framed its pollution prevention and climate policies as vital to public health. Energy Innovation’s analysis suggests Trump’s turnaround on vehicle emissions could lead to a bump in premature emissions-related deaths. By mid-century, policy-linked deaths would top 13,000 without California’s waiver and over 8,200 with it.

Harvey points to large metropolitan areas already missing air quality targets, like Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta, as those to be most impacted by the higher mortality rate.

“Every time there is an increase in air pollution, especially in a so-called non-attainment area, you increase asthma attacks,” said Harvey. “Those cause increased deaths.”

Many deaths would be in disadvantaged and marginalized communities located near freeways.

In addition to detrimental health and economic benefits, Harvey said the policy change will leave automakers in a bind. Though manufacturers have lobbied to relax standards in the past, they balked at a potential regulation freeze.

Harvey said the Obama policy aligned federal standards with California’s stricter policies, making it easier for automakers to meet just one standard. If California’s waiver stays put, the U.S. car market will again be torn in two. Car manufacturers hoping to compete in those markets will have to meet the more stringent standards.

“How do you decide your cars [standards] if you have no idea if Trump’s going to win or original regulations are going to prevail? If you’re smart, you’re going to follow the original regulations anyway,” said Harvey. “Car companies have to make multibillion-dollar decisions based on new uncertainty.”

Clarifying the uncertainty will likely be left to the courts. While the administration is already facing legal challenges from some states, the decision this week is expected to prompt more lawsuits.

The two policy actions, freezing the standards and revoking California’s waiver, could find their way to the Supreme Court. Harvey said the courts may decide cases based on the merit of the policy change or defer to the executive branch. President Trump’s recent nomination of Brett Kavanaugh — or “Mr. Deference” as Harvey called him — to the Supreme Court may give the administration an edge.

In the past, Kavanaugh has ruled that ultimate authority to craft environmental regulation rests with Congress, not the EPA, although he has called dealing with global warming “urgent.”


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