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Trump administration announces plans to freeze Obama-era fuel-efficiency requirements

On Thursday, the Trump administration announced that it would be freezing Obama-era fuel efficiency guidelines that required U.S. vehicles to become significantly more fuel efficient. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would be freezing Obama-era guidelines that required U.S. vehicles to become significantly more fuel efficient.

What were the Obama administration guidelines?

In 2012, former President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency had released guidelines that would work to “cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, reducing emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program.”

What did the White House say?

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler released a joint press statement Thursday under the heading “Make Cars Great Again." The statement said that the two agencies were 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.”

It argued that this policy change was necessary because the Obama administration's standards “raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles.”

The new guidelines will keep standards at 2020 levels until 2026, instead of mandating that they improve over this time period. This, Chao and Wheeler argued, “strikes the appropriate regulatory balance between vehicle improvements, environmental benefits and safety.”

What are supporters of this decision saying?

Millionaire businessman Steve Forbes, who is also the honorary chairman of Americans for Hope, Growth and Opportunity, released a statement that said in part:

Reforming Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards is a huge tax cut for American car buyers, up to a $7,200 per vehicle.  This unnecessary and hidden tax has burdened American consumers since the 1970s.  CAFE standards have failed on every front. They forced the manufacturing of small and less safe vehicles which many experts have concluded lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and injuries.

What are critics saying?

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted soon after the White House announced the policy change that she saw this as proof that the Trump administration was prioritizing “lining the pockets of big oil over protecting our right to breathe clean air.”

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