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EPA launches review of US vehicle emissions standards

By Barry Park, 03 Apr 2018 Industry

Trump EPA emissions 12

The Obama Administration’s hardline fuel use targets come under fire as Trump’s government says they’re too tough

THE US environmental watchdog has overnight announced it will overturn tough Obama-era emissions targets for passenger cars, paving the way for the Trump administration to scale back the tight targets imposed on car makers.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets, due to be phased in from 2022 to 2025, would have set a 4.7L/100km average fuel use across a manufacturer’s showroom. The move was widely expected to force car makers to introduce more plug-in hybrid and fully electric models --.

“The Obama Administration's determination was wrong,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement released overnight. “Obama’s EPA cut the midterm evaluation (MTE) process [a review of how well the car makers were transitioning to the new standards] short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.”

According to the EPA, in late 2016 the Obama Administration “short-circuited the MTE process and rushed out their final determination on January 12, 2017, just days before leaving office”.

"Since then, the auto industry and other stakeholders sought a reinstatement of the original MTE timeline, so that the agency could review the latest information,” it said. The EPA said it would now work with the US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set what it called “more appropriate greenhouse gas emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards”.

The review of the emission standards could also spell trouble for California, which has a waiver under CAFE standards to enforce much tougher emission standards than other US states, skewing the carpool towards those vehicles at the cutting edge of fuel-saving technologies. Pruitt said that waiver was under review.

US environmental group, the Natural Resources Defence Council, said the move to review the emissions standards for passenger cars – which account for about a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gases – was a win for big oil.

Colorado senator Michael Bennett also said the decision would ”disincentivise American manufacturers to create the most efficient cars of the future”.

Australia is an increasingly important export market for the US, with it standing as the fifth-largest source of imported vehicles here behind Japan, Thailand, Korea and Germany.  A large number of luxury German-brand SUVs are sourced from US-based factories set up in the market where they gain the most sales.

Over the first to months of this year, vehicle imports have grown 9.5 percent in the wake of the loss of Australia’s car manufacturing industry.