Epa reportedly wants 25% cut in fuel economy thedetroitbureau.com electricity and magnetism purcell

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When the current CAFE standard was first drafted eight years ago automakers agreed to support the proposal under an unusual industry-government compromise. The quid-pro-quo was the creation of a “mid-term review” meant to see if the 54.5 mpg target was still feasible. Even before the review began, however, automakers began backing away from their promise, insisting the Obama Administration roll back the standards. They ratcheted up pressure under the Trump Administration, former Ford CEO declaring a million jobs could be at stake during a White House meeting.

But CAFE has triggered a high profile debate, considering most adult Americans drive. Even when gas prices collapsed a few years ago, mileage remained a key consumer concern, according to industry research. And now, with fuel costs surging towards numbers not seen since mid-decade, any rollback could be announced at a potentially awkward time. After falling to a 52-week low of $2.22 a gallon last August, tracking firm GasBuddy currently shows regular unleaded averaging $2.83, with some forecasts anticipating it could soon top $3.00.

How the administration might respond to any consumer backlash is uncertain, especially given its record on other controversial moves. But environmental and consumer groups have turned to the courts to battle things out, winning a number of key cases over the last 15 months.

And a Pruitt move on CAFE may wind up being fought in the courts on several fronts. Any decision to roll back or freeze the mandate will, almost certainly, generate a legal challenge questioning both the administration’s ability to now change the rules, as well as the data it based its decision on, according to legal experts.

Then there’s the question of whether the EPA and NHTSA will try to strip California of its ability to set vehicle emissions standards, something that was crafted into the original 1970 Clean Air Act. Last week, during a Congressional hearing, Administrator Pruitt declined to say whether he might seek to revoke that waiver, saying only that his goal will be “to try to achieve commonality and an answer for both California and those states and our agencies.”

Under the current guidelines, California is the only state granted the ability to set its own emissions standards – indirectly gaining the ability to set a mileage target by setting guidelines for CO2. Carbon dioxide levels are directly commensurate with fuel consumption. Other states may opt to follow the tougher California rules, rather than federal rules, something 11 currently do.

“If enacted, this proposal would be a loss for the environment, a loss for consumers, a loss for the state of California and a loss for the auto industry, which is why all parties must come together immediately to find a workable solution that we know is very much within reach,” said Sen. Tom Carper a Delaware Democrat and the ranking member of the minority party on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Ford, one of the most vocal proponents of a reduction in the mileage targets, has frequently tried to position itself as a strong environmental advocate, but the second largest U.S. automaker has also been shifting focus to less efficient light trucks, such as its Explorer SUV and F-Series pickup. And Ford this month announced it was all but getting out of the passenger car market due to declining sales, so a CAFE cut would work to its benefit.

There are indications that even some of the automakers who called for a rollback on CAFE may fear the Trump Administration is going too far. Several manufacturers, including the top three Japanese brands, Toyota, Nissan and Honda, have indicated they likely will make little to no changes in their product plans whatever happens.