By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced he wants to revise fuel emissions standards for cars and trucks. Scott Pruitt said the rules under President Obama aren’t realistic and his agency is working on determining “appropriate standards.”

He didn’t spell out the exact changes, but says the revisions would help make cars safer and more affordable.

So, what are the standards? And, what could change? Good Question.

The average vehicle on the road in 1980 got 15 miles to the gallon. The fuel economy went up in the later 80s before leveling off for about 20 years. In 2005, it jumped again and has steadily climbed to about 25 miles/gallon.

That climb happened a few years before President Obama started talking about fuel efficiency. In 2012, new federal rules were put into place that would require new cars and trucks to average a 54.5 miles to the gallon standard by 2025. That means the average of all the cars one manufacturers sells must be higher than 54.5 miles to the gallon.

The EPA estimates those 2012 rules would cut 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and reduce U.S. dependence on oil by more than 2 million barrels per day in 2025.

According to the EPA, automakers have been improving fuel efficiency in every kind of vehicle that it now stands at record levels. But, with relatively low and stable gas prices over the past five years, more people have bought trucks and SUVs, which are less efficient.
It’s that shift that has many carmakers worried they’ll won’t be able reach the 54.5 miles/gallon standard by 2025.

“Consumer research shows that the monthly payment is the top concern when car-shopping,” the Auto Alliance said in a statement. “So, to ensure ongoing fuel economy improvement, the wisest course of action is to keep new vehicles affordable so more consumers can replace an older car with a new vehicle that uses much less fuel – and offers more safety features.”

But University of Minnesota assistant professor Gabriel Chan says the current standards are needed to ensure automakers continue to work toward more fuel efficiency. He points to data that fuel economy didn’t rise much when emissions standards didn’t rise.

“If we really want to address climate change, if we really want to clean up the air in our cities, it’s going to require some restrictions on the kinds of car that people buy and sell,” he says.

Chan says higher emissions standards would increase car prices upfront, but studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says people would make that money back in five years through lower gas prices.

The EPA will collect data and comments before issuing any changes. The state of California, which is allowed to set its own emissions standards, has said it plans to fight any federal changes.

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