WASHINGTON -- Americans love their trucks and SUVs, especially when gasoline prices are low. It’s this relationship with the gas-guzzler that is at the heart of a growing regulatory and legal battle.
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced emissions and fuel-economy standards that would require doubling the nationwide vehicle fleet average to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025. In January 2017, just before President Barack Obama left office, the EPA announced that the U.S. auto industry was beating expectations on meeting the standards, and that it planned to leave them in place.
Automakers complained the decision was rushed and did not reflect the era of lower gas prices that began a few years after the 2012 standards were set. As the administration changed, auto manufacturers found that the new leadership in the EPA and White House was much more receptive to their argument.
“The Obama administration’s determination was wrong,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in an April statement. “Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality and set the standards too high.”
The EPA said it would begin working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which oversees the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, to set new targets for the 2022-2025 model years. It was an expected move, considering the business-friendly attitude of the Trump administration and Pruitt, but it set off many concerns.
Read on for four questions raised by the decision, and some context behind it ...