USC researchers have concluded that rules on the books to increase fuel economy for passenger vehicles will do more good than harm, a challenge to the Trump administration’s effort to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards, according to a study released Thursday.
In a study that scrutinizes the cost-benefit methods used by federal officials to justify rolling back the regulations, researchers from USC and other universities determined the government analysis is flawed and departs from accepted protocols.
The administration’s analysis overlooked 6 million used cars, wiping out benefits estimated at least $112 billion, according to USC.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in August that its proposed new mileage standards would actually help the environment and save lives.
“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. “Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less.
“More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment,” he said. “We value the public’s input as we engage in this process in an open, transparent manner.”
USC’s research findings, which were reported in the journal Science and will be presented to automakers and policymakers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris this week, are significant because they reflect best practices identified by leading, independent economists and engineers, the university said.
The findings also are consistent with previous assessments showing that benefits for fuel-efficient vehicles outweigh costs. And the benefits accrue as blue skies, better health and fewer greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, according to the study.
Antonio Bento, a professor of public policy and economics at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and director of the nascent USC Center for Sustainability Solutions, said the study represents a “rapid assessment policy response” to the controversial regulatory proposal, which is undergoing federal rule-making.
“It appears federal officials cherry-picked data to support a predetermined conclusion that the clean-car standards will lead to too many highway deaths,” said Bento, the study’s lead author. “We do not support that conclusion and the data does not support that conclusion.”
The Trump administration’s attempt to freeze fuel-economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks has sparked conflict with California and other states. Critics say the regulatory freeze is difficult to justify on economic, legal or environmental grounds.
A group of 19 attorneys general joined California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a lawsuit in May seeking to stop the EPA from scrapping existing mileage standards.
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