Will Current Federal Fuel Standards Be Trumped?

By: Tierney Brannigan December 16, 2016
The incoming President may roll back regulations set to cap vehicle emissions.
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Recently, American car manufacturers have been feeling the heat—literally. With 2016 as our world’s hottest year on record, the need to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere has become federal law under Obama’s administration. However, with a business-minded President-Elect like Donald Trump, some auto companies are hopeful the U.S. government will turn the temperature down on current car emission regulations.

After Donald Trump’s election, a major automobile trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, wrote a letter to the presidential transition team, asking for revisions on the car emissions regulations set in place by the Obama Administration. The standards in question. passed in 2012, require all American auto manufacturers to produce cars that get at least 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

 The fuel standards are a “substantial challenge,” and the costs that come with abiding by the new regulations pose a major threat to the car companies represented by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, according to a letter written to President-Elect Trump by Alliance President and Chief Executive Officer Mitch Bainwol.

“Well-meaning regulatory action risks increasing compliance costs to the point that additional safety and fuel-efficiency technologies put new vehicles out of financial reach of the average new car purchaser,” Bainwol wrote.

With words like this, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers seeks sympathy from a man who’s notoriously business-oriented.

Trump’s election was an opportunity for the Alliance. “The Donald” is a famous denier of climate change, and has promised to “get rid of the regulations that are just destroying us.”

Just how detrimental are the fuel regulations to the general public, though, and what would be the long-term effects of taking the current fuel standards away?

American car manufacturers have been able to keep up with and even surpass Obama’s auto emissions regulations. The miles per gallon on model year 2015 cars hit a record high with 24.8 mpg, which is .9 mpg above the federally required fuel economy for that year.

So, while the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers seeks a second look at Obama’s fuel standards, many car companies look forward—to the electric car, that is. American consumers also seem to be on board with the electric car movement, not only for saving money on fuel, but also saving the Earth’s atmosphere.

Though, if Trump were to acknowledge the Alliance’s qualms, deciding to ease up on federal fuel standards and take away government incentives on clean energy vehicles, the electric car market could potentially face a rough road ahead.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, refutes this possibility, even if Trump were to enact policies directly against the emerging electric vehicle industry.

“One of the biggest misunderstandings about Tesla—and some are counterintuitive—is the degree to which Tesla is reliant upon incentives or subsidies. Ironically, if all incentives and subsidies were removed for Tesla, Tesla's competitive position would increase, not decrease,” said Musk.

The same can be said for other electric car manufacturers. With an unforeseeable future on U.S. relations in the Middle East, gas prices could present uncertainty and anxiety for the American people. Investing in an electric car guarantees the buyer a cheap and stable way of getting around.

Additionally, electric cars are becoming cheaper for the public. For one, the government currently offers tax incentives to the tune of $7,500 for those who choose to lease or buy an electric vehicle. Tesla intends on selling a more affordable model by the end of 2017, boasting a waitlist 400,000 people long for the highly-anticipated Model 3.

Those companies who are ahead of the curve, embracing the electric vehicle, will not only be able to keep up with the fuel standards in place, but will also continue to provide a more cost-efficient and favorable product. Regardless of whether Trump can keep his promise of revising the current car emissions regulations, he won’t be able to pull the plug on electric vehicles.

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