Trump To Reopen Review Of Car Fuel Efficiency Standards

Mar 15, 2017
Originally published on March 15, 2017 3:30 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you make, sell or drive a car, today President Trump has news for you.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm sure you've all heard the big news that we're going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again.

CORNISH: CAFE standards are fuel efficiency regulations for your cars and trucks. NPR's Sonari Glinton explains what today's announcement means.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: To begin with, we need to understand CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. These rules were put in place after the 1970s oil embargo. The idea is save gas, reduce consumption and thus the dependence on foreign oil, exactly the kind of rules the president says he doesn't like.

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TRUMP: My administration will work tirelessly to eliminate the industry-killing regulations, to lower the job crushing taxes and to ensure a level playing field for all American companies and workers.

GLINTON: The auto industry has never really liked these rules either, especially in recent years. And Trump has offered relief.

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TRUMP: It's a great business. It's a wonderful business. But it's been pretty much hurt here. But it's not going to be hurt for long, that I can tell you.

GLINTON: If the auto industry is hurting, then many businesses wish they could hurt so good. The automakers sold a record number of cars two years in a row with record profits, profits autoworkers have shared. The president wants to reopen a review of the standards. Car industry groups are praising that idea, saying it could spur even more growth in the industry. But it's widely believed that after a review, the administration would relax the standards. And that has environmental groups unhappy.

ROLAND HWANG: I cannot tell you how much what we're seeing right now is unprecedented and damaging to the American people, not just to our health but to our economy.

GLINTON: Roland Hwang is the transportation guy at the National Resources Defense Council. He says a rollback won't be easy.

HWANG: So EPA has an extremely difficult task to do, which is to overturn the existing facts and decades of legal precedence for how agencies set these standards. So it's not as simple as just a stroke of a pen and rolling back these standards.

GLINTON: He says environmental groups will be sure to fight any change. And they'll be joined by consumer advocates like Shannon Baker-Branstetter.

SHANNON BAKER-BRANSTETTER: I am policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

GLINTON: The White House says the rules hurt consumers by raising car prices. She laughs at that idea.

BAKER-BRANSTETTER: (Laughter) Consumers absolutely value fuel economy and look for better fuel economy. We find that about 85 percent of people support improving fuel economy. And it was the number one thing that consumers would like to see improved.

GLINTON: Baker-Branstetter says car prices are essentially flat. And if anything is making vehicles more expensive, it's all the cool new safety and entertainment features. And since consumers want better mileage, she wonders why car companies would support changes from the White House.

BAKER-BRANSTETTER: It's hard to say exactly why, you know, automakers are falling into this camp. Certainly oil companies are the biggest beneficiaries because consumers will be spending more on oil and gas.

GLINTON: And this is just the beginning. Environmental and consumer groups are promising a big legal fight, the biggest - big league. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.