The Trump administration has proposed two major changes to federal vehicle regulations. First, it seeks to abandon its predecessor’s 2012 plan to nearly double cars’ fuel economy by 2025, to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon; instead, the standard would stop rising after 2020, at 37 miles per gallon. And second, the administration wants to eliminate a waiver that gives California the right to create state-level emission rules that are stricter than federal law.
Obama’s fuel standards are a looming boondoggle and Trump is right to discard them. And California’s waiver, despite its pretensions to federalism, gives the state an unwarranted and outsized sway over federal policy: Unlike any other state, California can threaten to create a separate regulatory regime if federal policy doesn’t track its own prerogatives.
We wish Congress would step in, reform this dysfunctional system, and spell out exactly what the nation’s environmental standards should be, rather than leaving it to the executive branch. But given the laws we have, the Trump administration’s move is the right one.
The problems with the current fuel-economy standards are obvious enough. Because they require such a dramatic improvement in such a short time, they will prove difficult to meet and will drive up the price of cars.