Researchers Investigate Car Efficiency Proposal

Study: Did Trump administration ignore statistics to weaken vehicle efficiency rules?

December 11, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration hopes to roll back auto efficiency rules. Instead of maintaining the Obama administration’s goal of 54.5 mpg in passenger vehicles by model year 2025, the new rule will freeze the standard at 2020 levels, or 43.7 mpg.

But a study led by Antonio Bento, an environmental economist at the University of Southern California, says that the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ignored $112 billion in benefits and overestimated the number of traffic deaths that would be avoided if vehicle efficiency rules were weakened.

The Trump administration’s reasoning and the controversy lies here: If more fuel-efficient cars and trucks are more expensive, people won’t be able to afford them—meaning older cars stay on the road longer, increasing risk of injury and air pollution. The Trump administration says that its new proposal would avert nearly 1,000 fatalities and increase oil consumption by 500,000 barrels per day.

However, the researchers report that the new Trump administration proposal overlooked 6 million used cars and wrongly predicted how many miles new safer and more fuel-efficient cars would be driven. In turn, that wrongly forecasted potential fatalities, injuries, gasoline consumption and emissions.

"[W]e see no economic justification to keep the standard flat from 2020 to 2025, even ignoring the external societal benefits of the standard," the researchers wrote in Science. "Instead, standards should increase over time in stable and predictable ways."