The controversy over setting correct fuel economy targets through Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards continues today, but the White House has signaled that it is willing to make a number of concessions that would slow the pace of improvements for pickup trucks and SUVs.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that officials are looking to set CAFE targets at 56 miles per gallon on average by 2025, which is roughly twice the current national average and 58 percent higher than the current law, which forces average fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
It goes without saying that this is an ambitious goal, and it is one that isn’t without serious pushback from automakers, which claim that reaching lofty goals could mean adding significant dollar signs onto new car prices.
But sources told the WSJ that the White House has introduced a plan to change targets for Model Year 2017 to 2025 SUVs and Pickups, which would slow the pace of improving economy for those models as opposed to economy cars and sedans. The Obama administration supposedly released several alternatives, one of which would force pickups and SUVs to increase their economy numbers at a rate of 3.5 percent a year, which would be 1.5 points a year lower than the five percent expected of passenger cars.
The administration has no final numbers on how this proposal would affect the environment, but the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will commission an Environmental Impact study to test its feasibility.
Another signal that CAFE numbers may not be so hard and fast is the fact that automakers are already forcing other loopholes, including one where cars with low-emissions air conditioning refrigerant would effectively boost their CAFE numbers. Industry estimates say that this loophole alone would move target numbers down by six MPG and translate to a savings of $1100 at the dealer compared to proposals without that loophole.
This might not satisfy the most eco-minded of people, so expect some backlash. One indication that we’ll see some pushback is that California, which has previously its own emissions regulations, is prepared to nullify the compromised numbers for cars sold within its limits if they’re unhappy with them.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but negotiations between the Obama administration and automakers continue.