Reconsideration (repeal?) of fuel economy standards for 2022-2025 model year cars


EPA just posted the news release of Administrator Pruitt’s  (and DOT Secretary Chao’s) decision to reexamine the fuel economy standards for model years 2022-2025.  The decision was announced earlier by President Trump at a Michigan auto plant.  The rationale for this reexamination, the complaint by auto-makers that they are having difficulties meeting the standards, is remarkably disappointing  The rest of the world, especially Europe and Japan, already have much higher fuel economy standards than the US, and the EPA/DOT standards would only have made the US catch up.  In other words, car-makers already have to build cars with higher fuel economy standards if they want to sell them in most of the rest of the world.

What is especially galling about this is the reason  why the rest of the world is so far ahead. For more than 2 decades, between the mid-1980s to 2009, fuel economy standards were not increased, essentially allowing the US to fall far behind other industrialized countries.  The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has a nice chart that shows the fuel economy standards of various countries, including the US.    The consequence?  Not only will there be more greenhouse gas emissions, but consumers will pay more for gas usage.  Sad.

Even sadder?  Countries like China have more stringent standards.  (Though in fairness, the standards only apply to new model years.)  But at least, these countries have the right forward-looking policies on this issue in place.

Back in the early 80s, the Reagan Administration attempted to reverse air bag requirements of the preceding Carter Administration, designed to improve vehicle safety and save lives.  The ensuing litigation resulted in a famous U.S. Supreme Court case, Motor Vehicles Manufacturers v. State Farm Mutual, which is taught in every administrative law course.  The Supreme Court struck down the Reagan Administration’s attempt to roll back that regulation.  In the end, the Reagan Administration was only able to slow down the process of making cars safer but didn’t change the eventual outcome – airbags in every vehicle.  That same legal standard, asking whether the new Administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously in undoing the prior regulation, will be applied to the Trump/Pruitt regulatory roll-back effort when it is challenged in court.

On a completely different matter and for some levity, for yesterday’s Pi day activities at Santa Clara Law, I “took one for the team” and got “pied,” together with several other colleagues!  Here’s the video.  Enjoy.

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