Suppliers launch group for strong fuel efficiency rules

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, March 2, 2018

Auto parts suppliers have banded together in a new coalition to urge the Trump administration to maintain and extend fuel efficiency standards.

The administration, California and carmakers are currently negotiating the stringency of the rules. The new group announced today is seeking to inject another element into the debate: the jobs and investment generated by strong standards.

The Advanced Engine Systems Institute, the Aluminum Association, the Emission Control Technology Association, the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, under the umbrella name Automotive Technology Leadership Group, argue that the rules have created “hundreds of thousands” of jobs and “significant market opportunities” for the United States.

It is significant that the groups are speaking out because it marks a split from their clients — carmakers — some of which have lobbied for lower targets.

U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which determine the rules in tandem, must decide by April whether they will lower the Obama-era guidelines for model years 2021 to 2025 that could bring real-world average fuel efficiency to 36 mpg.

California air regulators could set higher standards, under a special Clean Air Act waiver, if the federal rules are weakened. Negotiators have held several meetings, which EPA officials have called “productive.”

The suppliers want negotiations to address new flexibilities to the rules to account for low gas prices, which have changed sales projections.

That is in line with the wishes of automakers, which have complained that Americans’ preference for gas-guzzling trucks makes it difficult to meet the standards, but it marks a difference from environmentalists, who fear that any changes could erode emissions and mileage benefits.

The suppliers also want negotiators to sketch out rules through 2030 and to ensure national uniformity and stability.

Many have benefited directly from the standards, which are meant to push automakers to adopt fuel-efficient technology like the use of aluminum, a lighter material, or improved gasoline engines.

The BlueGreen Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council found that there are more than 1,200 factories and 288,000 workers making the components that go into improving fuel efficiency.

The new effort is being led by Pat Quinn, a veteran lobbyist who has also put together a group of heavy-duty manufacturers to support strong clean truck rules.

“Long-term emissions and fuel economy standards will help suppliers sustain the strong manufacturing growth we have seen in the industry and will support innovation of new technologies,” said Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs for the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, in a statement.

“This stability allows suppliers to remain competitive in a global marketplace,” Wilson said. “If the U.S. leads the way on the standards, then companies manufacturing here will also lead the way on development and innovation.”