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Administration Proposes Rolling Back Fuel Economy Standards


The Trump administration is proposing a rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards. The Obama administration had introduced what's known as the 2025 program. Its goal was to double the fuel economy of vehicles while cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by the year 2025. But yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Safety Administration released a new proposed rule that would freeze the standards at their 2020 levels. Margo Oge crafted the 2025 program while she was director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality. And she joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

MARGO OGE: Thank you. Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What do you make of the Trump administration's decision? This is something I imagine you saw coming because they said they were going to do it.

OGE: So the action of the Trump Administration, in my view, reflects a very sad day for the country, for the people and the planet as a whole. This proposal is based on fabricated analysis. And in my view, it's clearly politically motivated. Everybody loses. You know, the consumer loses because the consumer has gained more than $56 billion saving fuel. The planet loses because the transportation sector is the number one industry in the U.S. that pollutes more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector. Even the car companies are losing because they're not going to be able to be competitive in the marketplace. And the only winner is the oil industry.

MARTIN: Let's dig into some of what you just laid out there. First, I want to ask you to explain what you mean by fabricated analysis. You say that this decision by the administration is based on faulty analysis and data.

OGE: Exactly. What this analysis is claiming and the main reason that they are rolling back the standards to the 2020 level is because they're saying that cleaner, more efficient cars will kill people.

MARTIN: They're saying it's about safety - that these lighter vehicles just aren't as safe on the roads.

OGE: They are not safe on the roads. And the data does not support this fabricated input. Just to give you an example, very simply, Ford converted its F-150 pickup truck from steel to aluminum. So they basically reduced the weight by 700 pounds. This pickup truck today has the highest fuel efficiency of any trucks of that size. It's the safest. And it got five stars from the Department of Transportation. So clearly, you can have safe cars and also fuel-efficient cars.

MARTIN: Let me ask you about California, a state that has been able to carve out exceptions for itself to set its own fuel efficiency standards over the years. This ruling is going to make that more complicated. California is vowing to repeal this so it can keep its own strict emissions standards in place. How do you think that's going to play out? I mean, is that going to make a difference in the broader effort to increase fuel efficiency standards?

OGE: Well, first of all, for the last 50 years, Congress has given California the right to have its own cleaner cars in the state. And at the same time, 13 other states have adopted the California program. So about 35 percent of cars sold in the U.S. are made in the California program. What the administration is doing is to actually revoke the waiver that we gave to the state of California in 2013 to allow them to set their own cleaner program. There is nothing under the Clean Air Act that will allow EPA to revoke a waiver that has been given to the states. And we have given the state over 150 waivers.

MARTIN: So legally, you think California has strong ground to stand on - that they'll be able to keep their standards.

OGE: Absolutely.

MARTIN: We're going to have to leave it there. Margo Oge was director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. Ms. Oge, thank you so much for your time.

OGE: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.