Trump’s Decrease in Fuel Economy Standards

Trump’s Decrease in Fuel Economy Standards

No, I did not read the 515 page plan for the new CAFE standards from 2021 to 2026, now called SAFE (The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Rule for Model Years 2021-2026).  I just read the one page summary.  The new standards would replace the ones set in 2012 during the Obama administration.  Initially, the auto industry wanted relief, but now they want uniformity across all states, and a compromise standard.  California is leading 17 states with a suit for the original standards.  These states have a population of 140 million, with 40% of the American car buying public.  California had an exemption to set its own standards, which Trump would also remove.   Are the auto makers realizing that Trump may lose in court with a weak case, and that they are better off with a compromise settlement than with California winning?

There is a lot of confusion about standards.  I remember when the 2025 Obama standard of 54.5 mpg was set, but it was estimated that with exemptions for auto makers to produce more SUVs, the actual average was going to be around 43 mpg.  There also is the problem that SUVs are the choice of half of present US consumers.  There has also been 7 years of progress in producing electric vehicles of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric vehicles.  There are also commitments of Volkswagen and other auto makers to go all electric.  And the Paris climate accords.  And projections of future self driving vehicles, which can be built much lighter, when all vehicles are so equipped and safer.  The automatic cooperative driving will save on traffic stops and stop and go driving, as well as being programmed for more fuel economical driving.  Also, with more principal streets with timed signals, there is better fuel economy and relief from the freeways.  We still have our hopes of more communication related jobs cutting down on commutes.  Delivery services are replacing many shopping trips and closing malls and brick-and-mortar stores.  While we only see a growth in electric vehicles in Southern California, in the US, electric vehicles are only about 5% of new vehicle preferences.  There is also the advent of Uber and Lyft, saving on the need for car ownership, car rental, hunting for parking spaces, and parking spaces.  Drivers are also using fuel efficient cars to save expenses.

The Trump standard is 37.0 mpg average in 2021-2026, which would be on new vehicles.  The current Obama standard for 2025 is listed as 46.7 mpg, although is was initially 54.5, and estimated as 49 with air conditioning, but actually 43.  The Obama standard for new vehicles was supposed to be 36.6 mpg for 2017.  It is not clear if the replacement of 54.5 mp is 37.0 mpg, and so the actual average obtained will also be less than 37.0 mpg.  The Trump reduction in hybrid vehicles required in 2030 is a whopping one, from 56% to 3%.  You can see why the auto companies need to have a standard to prepare for, instead of the long term waiting for court cases to be settled, which is endless with Trump and Attorney General Barr.  Also, while looking 7 and 11 years down the line, Trump might be out in 1 1/2 or 6 years.  The Democrats are also considering rapid climate action as a prime issue.

The real fuel usage is in gallons per mile, not its reciprocal mpg or miles per gallon.  So let’s compare the reciprocals of 37.0 mpg versus 46.7 mpg and 54.5 mpg, with the present overall EPA estimate of 25.4 mpg.  The reciprocals, multiplied by 100 miles, are –

Mpg.  Gallons for 100 miles. Cost at $4.00/gallon

25.4         3.94.            $15.75

37.0.        2.70.            $10.81

46.7.        2.14.            $8.57

54.5.        1.83.            $7.34

While the savings in gallons and cost from 3.94 to 2.70 is 1.24 out of 3.70 or 33.5%, the drop from the present 3.94 to Obama’s 2.14 of 1.80 out of 3.70 would have been 48.6%.  The ratio of 33.5% to 48.6% is 69%.  So the Trump reduction is slightly over 2/3 of the reduction planned by Obama.  That is the most positive outcome, out of the confusion of numbers.

The 2012 announcement claimed that despite the estimated cost increase for the fuel efficient vehicles of $2,000 to $3,000,  the 2025 vehicles would save $8,000 a vehicle in fuel costs.  The Trump alternative says that there is comparatively only a 2%-3% increase in daily fuel costs.  If we test this with out numbers above, the fuel cost increases from Obama to Trump for 100 miles from $8.57 to $10.81 or $2.24.  Divided by the Obama $8.57, this is 2.24/8.57 = a 26% increase.  So it is actually 10 times larger than the Trump claim!

I realize now that most people in the country are paying around $2.50 a gallon.  Lucky you.  I am delighted to see some California stations at less than $4 a gallon.  This should make a big difference on the purchase of autos.  But all I notice around here are SUVs and Teslas.  To change to the $2.50 a gallon basis, just take every dollar figure above and scale by $2.50/$4.00 = 5/8.

The proposed standard also removes the greenhouse gas accounting of the effects of AC refrigerant, of methane, and of nitrous oxides, so they come up with an estimate of very low contribution to warming, and only evaluate the effect of the 2021-2026 period in 2100, and not the future continuance of lower standards.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
This entry was posted in 2020 Election, Air Quality, Automated Driving, CAFE Standards, Donald Trump, Electric Cars, EPA, Hybrid Cars, Paris Climate Accord, Transportation, Trump Administration. Bookmark the permalink.

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