As the clock ticks toward the moment when America transfers power from a person of color who is despised by all right thinking, God fearing, Bible thumping white people to a megalomaniac who believes in belittling anyone who dares disagree with him, many in the Obama administration are trying to figure out how to keep the Trumpter and this white supremacist minions from trashing decades worth of effort designed to ensure all Americans have clean air and clean water. On the last day of November, the EPA published its proposed final CAFE rules.
That action began a 30 day period for public comments as prescribed by law. Once the comment period expires, the agency is legally free to issue final rules based upon its proposals. That means it can do so prior to Inauguration Day even though it has until April, 2018 to take final action. Take that, your Trumpness!
It’s not that The Donald won’t be able to alter the new rules. It’s that doing so is a lot harder once the rules become final than it is when they are just proposals. Many observers speculate that the next administration may do away with the CAFE system entirely, which would allow manufacturers to build any vehicles they wish without any concern about how many gallons of gasoline they burn per mile.
What is interesting is that the proposed rules call for average corporate fuel economy to rise to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Earlier this year, the car companies brought pressure to bear on the EPA to lower the standard to 50.2 mpg, which the EPA agreed to do. But once Trump the Grump won the election, the manufacturers immediately began whining to his transition team about how unfair and burdensome even that lower number was. So the EPA has decided their treachery should be rewarded by sticking with the original target.
Actually, for any number of reasons, all of which fall under the category heading Figures Lie And Liars Figure, that scary looking 54.5 mpg number is only a theoretical abstraction. In terms of real world driving, it translates into about 38 mpg. All this uproar and ruckus over a standard that could be met by most manufacturers today, never mind 8 years from now.
“Given the auto industry’s importance to American jobs and communities and the industry’s need for certainty well into the future, EPA has reanalyzed these clean car standards and sought further input,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective. This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry’s capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment.”
The automakers do have a point, though, when they talk about regulations being a burden. The EPA governs rules for passenger cars and light trucks. NHTSA is in charge of rules for medium and heavy trucks. The two sets of rules do not always mesh well with each other. The whole CAFE system could be easily replaced in its entirely with one simple measure — a market adjustment that required fossil fuels to bear the full cost of the damage they do to the environment, including health care costs.
Economist argue constantly about what the proper dollar value is per ton of carbon dioxide, but the commonly accepted figure among many practitioners of the dismal science is around $37/ton. At that rate, the price of gasoline would go up by about 50 cents a gallon. Should Americans be asked to pay 50 cents a gallon to preserve the environment that nurtures and supports them in their quest for life, liberty, and happiness? Most would say no; it is way too high. Which is why we are about to inaugurate the dumbest person alive to be the new leader of the not-quite-so-free world.