White House Reveals Plan to Freeze CO2 Emission Rules

As expected, the Trump administration proposes to cap allowable carbon dioxide emissions from cars at 2020 levels, while revoking California’s power to set its own standards.

The final proposal released today offers a range of other options. It also marks the beginning of 60 days of intense negotiations among regulators and carmakers to find a compromise that would avoid a protracted legal battle over the issue. At least 20 states already have vowed to defend the original standards.

The White House proposal, which was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, estimates that the cost of meeting currently planned CO2 limits through 2026 would hike the average price of a car by more than $2,300. Two years ago those agencies calculated that cost at $1,200 per vehicle.

The proposal argues that keeping car prices lower would help get older, less safe cars off the road and reduce traffic fatalities by 12,700 deaths over nine years. The measure also acknowledges that the higher fuel consumption allowed by freezing the standards would burn through about 500,000 additional barrels of oil per day.

Opponents are skeptical of the math involved, noting that government calculations made in 2012 to defend the existing standards came to sharply different results. Critics also complain that the new cost-benefit analysis apparently ignores the health benefits of cleaner air.

An internal EPA memo seen by The Washington Post raises the same concerns. In it, the agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality warns that the Trump administration proposal may contain a “wide range of errors, use of outdated data, and unsupported assumptions.”

Carmakers say they don’t object to tougher emission limits. But they wan the certification process changed to make it easier to meet them by recognizing the contributions of such fuel-saving features as aerodynamic enhancements and engine stop-start systems.