During a visit to Detroit last year, President Trump announced his administration would assess and correct the current vehicle fuel-economy standards, which impose significant costs on American consumers and eliminate jobs. The administration is continuing to deliver on that promise. On Thursday the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency are announcing a joint proposal to update the national automobile fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas standards to give consumers greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles, while continuing to protect the environment.
The joint proposal lays out eight options for new national fuel-economy standards for model years 2021-26. All interested parties are asked to weigh in with their views. The goal is to get it right—to create one national standard that is technologically feasible and economically practicable, while promoting energy conservation, furthering other environmental goals, and preserving consumer choice. The administration’s proposed option would lock in the 2020 standards until 2026, because the analysis of our agencies suggests that those standards strike the appropriate regulatory balance between vehicle improvements, environmental benefits and safety.
There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking. The standards implemented by the previous administration raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles. The government also previously failed to conduct a midterm review in the manner promised. Customers’ preferences have also changed since the current standards were introduced.
The 2012 standards were designed to encourage the development and sale of electric vehicles. Today electric vehicles are only about 1.5% of new vehicles sold. Some data conclude that nearly half of consumers who purchase an electric car do not buy another because of challenges with range and recharge times. Yet to meet the previous administration’s fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas standards, manufacturers would have to produce vehicle lineups that are 30% electric or more over the next seven years—far more vehicles than buyers are likely to want.
Further, the effect of the last administration’s standards was to subsidize these expensive electric vehicles at the expense of affordable traditional cars and trucks. Our goal is to ensure that consumers have a variety of safe, fuel-efficient choices so they can decide for themselves which options suit them best. This includes electric vehicles, for those who want them.
Already, the standards have helped drive up the cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000—out of reach for many American families. Compared with the preferred alternative outlined in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.
Due to these increased costs, Americans are holding on to their older, less-safe vehicles longer and buying older-model vehicles. The average vehicle on the road today is 12 years old, and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows passengers are likelier to be killed in older vehicles than newer ones. In each of the past two years, more than 37,000 lives were lost on our roads. A key goal of this rulemaking is to reduce the barriers to enabling Americans to purchase newer, safer, cleaner cars.
The EPA and the Transportation Department spent the past year gathering data and meeting with safety, environmental, and industry groups. This information was used to assess how fuel-economy requirements affect affordability, safety, jobs, pollution, the economy and our country’s energy needs. In terms of greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change, the last administration admitted its requirements would have minimal impacts. None of the options outlined in this administration’s proposed rule would have more than a negligible environmental impact either. This transparent, inclusive process is critical to creating one national standard that enhances safety and affordability while protecting the environment.
Ms. Chao is transportation secretary. Mr. Wheeler is acting EPA administrator.