Automakers push for national fuel economy standards; EPA nominee backs 50-state solution

The unresolved standoff between the Trump administration and California over fuel economy standards was in the news again recently. The outcome will affect auto dealers nationwide, especially those in the 20 states – including Maryland and Virginia – that have said they will sue the Trump administration if it goes ahead with its plan to freeze Obama-era fuel economy standards at 2020 levels through 2025.


The feds have said they could prevent California from creating its own standards, as it has done since the California waiver was passed under a Clean Air Act amendment in 1970. The group of 20 states say withdrawing the California waiver would be illegal.


The auto industry wants a single national standard, also known as the 50-state solution. So does Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, recently nominated by President Trump to be permanent administrator. Automakers have to plan years in advance and have already planned for Obama-era fuel economy standards. Right now, automakers say they simply want a resolution so they can plan with some degree of certainty, according to Reuters.


The EPA has until March 31, 2019 to issue new rules for MY 2021; but with the government shutdown, the agency may not be able to meet that deadline.


Auto dealers, who are on the industry’s front line, worry about affordability and whether the fuel-efficient vehicles, which will likely be more expensive, will sell. With the price of gas currently so low, buyers are flocking to SUVs and crossovers, not to fuel-efficient vehicles.

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