Trump administration plans to freeze CO2 legislation rather than adopt stricter targets

08 August 2018

Trump administration plans to freeze CO2 legislation rather than adopt stricter targets

8 August 2018

The US Trump administration has published plans to weaken regulations for fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.

In a move that might put the country on a collision course with the State of California, as well as the rest of the world, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that it favours freezing standards at 2020 levels, rather than requiring the steady increase in performance planned under the Obama administration between 2021 and 2026.

As part of the proposal, the administration is also considering stripping California of its rights to set its own emissions standards and requirements for manufacturers to sell electric vehicles (EVs) and trucks in the state. The news could also cause issues for vehicle manufacturers, who are planning their new models for that period, and have already designed them to be compliant with the previous emissions plans.

However, according to the Financial Times, Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney-general, said on Twitter that the Trump administration had ‘launched a brazen attack’ on the country’s clean car standards. He pledged that his department would ‘use every legal tool at its disposal to defend today’s national standards and reaffirm the facts and science behind them’.

This legal battle could also cause problems for carmakers as development would have to be halted until the outcome of any court action, which could take years, and even longer if appeals are lodged.

The Auto Alliance and Global Automakers, which represent carmakers in the US, jointly issued a statement: ‘Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment. With today’s release of the Administration’s proposals, it’s time for substantive negotiations to begin. We urge California and the federal government to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America’s drivers.’

While automakers were resistant to the Obama rules initially, they have since warmed to them, especially with European targets also becoming stricter after 2020. Manufacturers are being forced to develop electric, hybrid and hydrogen power units to ensure they can compete in a market which is being pushed to be more environmentally friendly.

While the freezing of plans in the US may not affect the EU market, with manufacturers looking increasingly towards global platforms, any move may benefit them as meeting strict EU targets will mean they comfortably beat any freeze in the US.

The Trump administration argues that its proposals would prevent thousands of road deaths because they would hold down the cost of new cars which are safer than older models. The Obama-era plans would suppress sales of new cars by adding $2,340 (€2,019) to the cost a vehicle, the EPA said. The agency said relaxing the regulations would ‘give the American people greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles that are cleaner for the environment’