Upton and Dingell offer CAFE relief for automakers

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, October 13, 2017

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) have introduced a bill to ease pressure on automakers for meeting fuel economy standards.

The bill, H.R. 4011, would tweak regulations by U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It does not directly lower the fuel efficiency targets, but environmental groups claim the changes could ultimately increase fuel use and emissions by giving automakers looking for help complying with the requirements an easy boost.

The House bill mirrors Senate legislation S. 1273, introduced by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in May (E&E Daily, May 26). Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are co-sponsors.

The Trump administration is already reconsidering EPA’s tailpipe requirements for 2021 to 2025, which were projected to bring real-world average fuel efficiency to around 36 mpg.

Automakers claim those targets are “inappropriate” because Americans are buying more gas-guzzling trucks than fuel-efficient, hybrid or electric cars. They have been lobbying the Trump administration and Congress to lower the targets and to smooth out differences between the rules set by EPA and NHTSA.

“The most important aspect of this bill: Affordable autos for all Americans,” said Upton in a statement. “The high cost of the current conflicting regulatory requirements automakers are facing drives up manufacturing expenses, which are then passed along to consumers. Our common-sense, bipartisan legislation would help deliver on the promise of a strong national fuel economy standard, replacing the current patchwork of federal and state laws.”

NHTSA and EPA are also considering automaker requests for “harmonization” in their review of the standards.

The legislation would, among other things, allow automakers to retroactively count non-engine technologies that increase fuel savings already deployed on the road toward future compliance. It would also let manufacturers count more older bonus points they received in the early years of the program for compliance toward future targets.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated the changes in the program would lead to 350 million barrels of additional oil being burned, 155 million metric tons of additional global warming emissions and $34 billion in additional fuel costs. Carmakers could be on a path to miss current targets by 8 to 10 mpg in 2025, according to an analysis by the group.

Overall, it could reduce 6 percent of the benefits anticipated for the 2012-2021 rules, according to the analysis.

“Automakers promised to deliver cleaner cars, and for five years now, they’ve succeeded,” said Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program at UCS. “We know they can meet and even exceed the standards set for them in the years ahead. Instead, they’re lobbying at every level to weaken the standards. This bill is just the latest giveaway to an industry looking to change the rules in the middle of the game.”