At present, the US EPA has set standards for vehicle fuel and economy and emissions that extend through the year 2025. Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, tells Automotive News that automakers are ahead of schedule in complying with the new rules. He goes so far as to call the results of their efforts so far “nothing short of spectacular.” If that is the case, then any weakening of the standards as they exist today is unlikely.
Grundler seems to suggest that the EPA is working cooperatively with the auto industry to craft effective regulations. He says that it is wrong to say current regulations will force the industry to make cars nobody wants to buy. “We have a common cause with the industry to see these vehicles selling and selling in record numbers,” Grundler said. “We get that unless people buy fuel efficient vehicles in numbers that matter, we don’t achieve our environmental goals. For EPA to succeed, this industry needs to succeed.”
That’s all very progressive, but what happens after the year 2025? “There seems to be a clear consensus in the automotive industry about what this future looks like, and that we’re in the midst of transformational change,” Grundler said at the Automotive News World Congress recently. “The question to me becomes: What does this mean for the post-2025 policy framework? Should it transform as well? I say, yes. Absolutely.”
Grundler said the EPA may include additional factors such as electricity sources, autonomous technologies, connectivity, car sharing and mobility services, and other emerging transportation trends into its thinking. “We can’t simply take the same old approach that looks at this from a tailpipe standard-setting point of view,” Grundler said. “We need to be thinking about public policy in a post-2025 period in a much broader way.”
The recent global climate summit in Paris has had an effect on how EPA officials view the future. “In this post-Paris world, we need to open our minds to all good ideas that will accelerate this transformation in ways that will be good for the planet, good for business and good for people,” he said. That may include setting standards for greenhouse gases, oxides of nitrogen, and particulate matter as a group, instead of individually, as is the case today.
Federal administrators don’t often get a lot of love from the industries they regulate or from the general public. Grundler’s comments suggest that maybe they deserve more credit than we have been giving them.