New EPA fuel economy plan is sure to anger California

Freezing efficiency rules from 2020 through 2026 is said to save customers money.

Jake Holmes Reviews Editor
While studying traditional news journalism in college, Jake realized he was smitten by all things automotive and wound up with an internship at Car and Driver. That led to a career writing news, review and feature stories about all things automotive at Automobile Magazine, most recently at Motor1. When he's not driving, fixing or talking about cars, he's most often found on a bicycle.
Jake Holmes
2 min read

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation today unveiled a proposal to freeze Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules from 2020 through 2026. 

As anticipated, the proposal essentially rolls back Obama-era regulations that were intended to force automakers to improve their vehicles' efficiency.

The new proposal is called the "Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule." Whereas under the previous rules enacted in 2012, CAFE targets would ramp up every year, the new proposal intends to keep the 2020 numbers in place through 2026. That means a 43.7 mpg for passenger cars and 31.3 mpg for light trucks .

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

Proposed fuel economy rules won't be as strict as those set out in 2012.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The EPA rule also calls for a 50-state solution whereby all states would follow the same mileage and emissions rules -- killing California's right to set its own specific rules (certain other states follow California's rules). California and other states are already suing the EPA.

"EPA is proposing to withdraw the waiver granted to California in 2013 for the GHG [Greenhouse Gas] and ZEV [Zero Emissions Vehicles] requirements of its Advanced Clean Cars program," the proposal says. "In short, the agencies propose to maintain one national standard -- a standard that is set exclusively by the Federal government."

Environmental and cost impacts of freezing the rules are said to be minimal. Adopting these new rules instead of the 2012 figures would have only a minimal effect on global temperature increases by the year 2100 -- just three one-thousandths of a degree Celsius --  the proposal claims. And it says that compared to the 2012 rules, the new proposal would raise US fuel consumption by half a million barrels per day (that's between two and three percent daily).

2018 Nissan Leaf

The EPA says that few customers have shown interest in buying plug-in or hybrid cars, in part because of their higher prices.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Another claimed benefit: More affordable cars. The proposal blames the continued increasing price of new cars, in part, on keeping up with stricter emissions rules, saying it will add an average of $2,430 to the price of new vehicles.

The rules also claim that keeping the lower mpg requirements will prevent 12,700 fatalities and many more injuries on American roads. The logic is that because new-car prices will be lower, "more consumers will be able to afford newer and safer vehicles." Moreover, the plan claims that these less-efficient cars will actually be safer because they're heavier by "avoiding the mass reductions in passenger cars that might otherwise be required to meet the standards established in 2012."

"Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less," EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. "More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment."

Today's announcement is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The EPA and DOT will now give the public 60 days to provide comment and feedback on the rules before they are potentially introduced as law.