Trump Admin Concedes That Weaker Fuel Standards Would Have Disastrous Impact

on August 2, 2018 in San Rafael, United States.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America

In a 500-page outline of the impact of weaker fuel efficiency standards (meaning more pollution, even from new cars) the Trump administration admitted that such a move would cause hundreds of premature deaths and continue to warm the earth at a dangerous rate.

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ran the numbers in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposal to let cars pollute more. The impact statement, released in August, was analyzed recently by NBC News and The Washington Post.

Per the Post, the administration argued, essentially, that stricter fuel standards don’t have enough of an impact on climate change to justify their existence. One model in the NHTSA impact statement, NBC News highlighted, found that 299 more people could die prematurely as a result of the proposed increase in pollutants through 2050.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” climate scientist Michael MacCracken told the Post.

The effort to erase stricter, Obama-era requirements for fuel efficiency (measured in miles per gallon) began when Scott Pruitt was EPA administrator. The Trump administration wants to freeze emissions rules at 2020 levels, rather than continuing to raise the bar in the following years. The NHTSA impact statement lays out the costs — human, planetary and otherwise — of spewing more exhaust.

California and other states have sued to block the change. Even car companies have urged the Trump administration to ditch the plan to allow cars to be less fuel efficient.

The NHTSA and EPA held three public hearings last week for feedback on the proposal, in Dearborn, Michigan; Fresno, California; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On Sept. 21, the NHTSA announced it would extend the comment period on the proposal to Oct. 26. Comments can be submitted here.

The Washington Post noted the Trump administration tried to make their proposed emissions numbers appear smaller by, in the words of MIT’s John Sterman, “comparing their proposals to what would happen if the entire world does nothing.”

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