ANN ARBOR—Under current requirements, car and truck fleets must average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. At issue is whether those standards are feasible for automakers to meet. The EPA had until April 2018 to rule on that and the Obama administration pushed a decision through at the end of his term.
At President Trump's visit to Michigan today, he is expected to announce plans to reopen the midterm review of Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards.
University of Michigan has experts available:
Anna Stefanopoulou, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the U-M Automotive Research Center, served on the National Academies' committee that initially investigated CAFE standards costs and released a report in 2015. It essentially concluded that advances in technology would come down in price enough for automakers to economically meet the targets.
"I worry that we are again hearing 'alternative facts' by a segment of the industry that is after quick returns, instead of pursuing the hard work needed to remain the leaders in our global race for cleaner and more efficient transportation," Stefanopoulou said.
"I care about the environment; I have seen my daughter, who has asthma, suffer when we travel to a city with smog. But I am also a technocrat and care about the economic prosperity of this country and I am convinced that we should aim for the higher mpg because it is feasible. I believe the OEMs that do not want to aim higher will be eclipsed in a few years by the ones that will develop and deploy the technologies we outlined in the report."
Andre Boehman, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the W.E. Lay Automotive Laboratory, is an expert on advanced vehicle fuel and combustion technology, as well as emissions control.
"A rollback on fuel economy standards such as carbon dioxide emissions limits would be a mistake by the Trump administration because automakers have already made significant progress toward achieving fuel economy targets," Boehman said. "Better fuel economy saves consumers money. Fuel prices are low right now and seem likely to stay low through 2017, but because petroleum is a finite resource and world demand is trending upward, prices will inevitably go back up.
"Whether or not you see fuel economy standards as a response to global warming, it makes sense to support strict fuel economy standards because they lead to savings in fuel costs and improvements in the nation's energy security.
"Beyond carbon dioxide emissions, a rollback on vehicle tailpipe pollutant emissions standards such as carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, particulates and nitrogen oxides—if the Trump administration were to take such a step—would have direct adverse effects on air quality and human health.
Barry Rabe is a professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He recently presented a paper on the the political history of the now-blended tailpipe emissions and fuel economy programs at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
"Of course, what makes this such an important step is that is affects not just CAFE, which has long had issues, but Title II of the Clean Air Act," Rabe said. "In 2010, President Obama essentially integrated the tailpipe emissions program of the Clean Air Act with the CAFE standards. This integration reflected a major experiment designed to become a key plank in American efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
"The Trump administration decision reflects a major reversal of gears for American vehicles, in particular decisions made in the Obama Administration to use this regulatory process as a cornerstone of its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This continues a recent pattern of relying on executive agency actions rather than involving Congress or the states and opens the question of whether or not to expect any future tightening of standards."
Marina Whitman, professor of business administration and public policy, is an expert on international trade and the auto industry. She is a former chief economist and first female group vice president at General Motors Corp.
"The auto industry has always disliked CAFE standards because they set requirements against consumers' preferences," she said. "Gasoline tax or, even better, a carbon tax, is preferable way to reduce CO2 emissions."
Shobita Parthasarathy, associate professor of public policy and women's studies and director of the U-M program on Science, Technology and Public Policy, can discuss the politics of evidence and expertise in policymaking.
"The Trump administration argues that it is reviewing CAFE standards in the interest of eliminating burdensome regulation and increasing jobs," Parthasarathy said. "But, it forgets that regulations, especially in the case of fuel efficiency, are often the source of innovation and social progress."
Mark Barteau is the Director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute and the DTE Energy Professor of Advanced Energy Research. His research group studies the design of catalysts and nanomaterials to improve efficiency and sustainability of chemicals and fuels production, as well as strategies for utilization of renewable resources.
"The automakers' push to roll back CAFE standards is reflective the short term motivations of today's CEOs. Ultimately they will need to build increasingly fuel efficient cars and trucks to compete in the global market place. However, if that reckoning can be pushed off to the next CEO's watch and higher profits can be realized in the short term, that is what Wall Street rewards. Rolling back the standards is a tragedy, not only for the long term competitiveness of American industry, but for all citizens of the planet who will bear the consequences of higher carbon emissions."