ANN ARBOR—University of Michigan experts are available to discuss an announcement today by the Trump administration that it intends to ease fuel-economy standards for automobiles, moving to undercut one of the Obama administration's signature efforts to combat climate change.
Barry Rabe is a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has studied the 50-year odyssey of the California vehicle emissions waiver and related implementation issues. As part of that work, he was involved in a three-year project with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences examining environmental and energy policy durability, with a special focus on the Clean Air Act. He's written a chapter for a forthcoming Cambridge Press book that examines the role of state vehicle emission waivers as a regulatory tool in U.S. federalism.
"The U.S. vehicle emission program was launched 50 years ago and has been sustained in three successive rounds of congressional review. It provides California with extensive authority to make requests to the federal EPA to tailor standards that meet its unique air quality concerns.
"More than 120 waivers have been granted in this time, involving every U.S. president and California governor. This new step represents a major departure from this long-standing intergovernmental partnership, raising major questions for its future direction and viability."
Joe Árvai director of U-M's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Max McGraw Professor of Global Sustainable Enterprise at the School for Environment and Sustainability and the Ross School of Business.
Árvai is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Environmental Change and Society and chaired the NAS panel charged with informing the Fourth National Climate Assessment process. He also served six years on the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board, which is tasked with providing scientific advice to the EPA administrator.
"This is yet another unusual, costly and dangerous move by the Trump administration. It's an unusual move because it flies in the face of public and consumer sentiment about the need for more stringent environmental regulations, especially as concerns about public health and climate change are on the rise.
"It's a costly move because a coalition of U.S. states, led by California, has shown no desire to forgo their rights to demand tighter vehicle emissions standards. This places automobile manufacturers in the clumsy and expensive spot of potentially having to meet two different sets of regulatory standards within a single national marketplace.
"And it's a dangerous move because the climate and health risks associated with vehicle emissions are both well known and significant. Once again, Donald Trump and (Environmental Protection Agency Administrator) Scott Pruitt have demonstrated that the optical illusion that is their deregulatory agenda is more important than the health of the American people and the environment they cherish."
Daniel Raimi is a senior research associate at Resources for the Future and a lecturer at the Ford School of Public Policy with expertise on energy policy issues, including oil and gas markets and policy.
"Rolling back vehicle efficiency standards runs counter to the purported goals of the Trump administration's energy 'dominance' agenda. Improving the efficiency of road transportation is perhaps the single most effective tool the U.S. has to reduce its exposure to the volatility of the global oil market. Reducing vehicle efficiency will further expose the U.S. economy to oil price shocks, which increases consumer's pain when oil prices rise."
Ben van der Pluijm is a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and editor-in-chief of the journal Earth's Future. His work focuses on societal resilience and the impacts of resource needs, hazards and global change.
"Lowering mileage and emission standards means greater greenhouse gas emissions per mile traveled and, thus, greater future warming. In addition to climate warming, a greater demand for oil has major impacts on freshwater, clean air and land use in the U.S. All this is unnecessary with today's combustion-engine improvements and transitioning to a renewables-powered transportation system.
Anna Stefanopoulou, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the U-M Automotive Research Center, served on the National Academies' committee that initially investigated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (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 hope the administration accounts for recent innovation in powertrain technology, along with market trends in shared, connected, and electrified vehicles—and defines standards that will infuse economic growth. If they use data and keep in mind broad economic benefits, they might only tweak, rather than rollback, the standards.
"The auto manufacturers in the U.S. that are portrayed as supporters of a rollback know that they have to compete across the whole US, including California, and other important global markets where fuel efficiency is highly valued.
"The U.S.market appetite for larger vehicles is quoted as one of the reasons for the re-examination and possible rollback, but in all honesty, the footprint of each manufacturer's fleet is taken already into account in the regulations.
"Reducing the fuel consumption of profitable light trucks is a cost effective way of satisfying Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards, and almost all auto manufacturers are working towards this goal—as the recent Detroit Auto show highlighted."