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Feinstein: Higher fuel economy standards are a good thing

The Trump administration should prepare to face litigation if it unravels an Obama-era push for better gas mileage, the California lawmaker said.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Feinstein: Higher fuel economy standards are a good thing
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says Trump administration could face a legal fight if it scales back mandates for fuel economy. File Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

April 26 (UPI) -- The Trump administration should brace itself for years of litigation should it downgrade fuel economy standards for vehicles, a California senator said.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said former President Barack Obama got it wrong when he called for an increase in fuel economy for all domestic vehicles to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Pruitt said Obama's action was politically charged and standards "are not appropriate."

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In a letter to the EPA, the U.S. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said no conventional vehicle yet meets the target set by Obama in 2012 and, to get up to speed, the automotive industry would need to spend about $200 billion to comply with the rules.

California was authorized to implement its own rules and 12 states, including Vermont, have adopted those standards. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said it would be in the federal government's best interest to commit to higher fuel economy standards.

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"If the Trump administration tries to weaken the current fuel economy standards or challenges California's authority to fight for clean air, it would provoke years of litigation and investment uncertainty for the auto industry," her letter read.

Following the EPA's proposal, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the EPA launched an "attack" on improved greenhouse gas standards for automobiles, adding the state was ready with a lawsuit to challenge any policy shift that would lower the fuel economy standard.

Automotive trade groups are supportive of the EPA proposals. The National Automobile Dealers Association said it would join the federal government in drafting "appropriately tailored" emissions and fuel economy standards.

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The average fuel economy during Obama's tenure was around 25 miles per gallon. The government estimated that switching from a vehicle that gets 20 mpg to one that gets 25 mpg decreases greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.7 tons per year.

The transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, are inching higher nationally on the back of improvements in the crude oil market.

Last year, Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst at GasBuddy, told UPI the price of oil would have to reach $75 per barrel and the national average would have to get closer to $3 per gallon before there's a direct impact on the U.S. economy.

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The price for Brent crude oil was $75 per barrel early Thursday. The national average price for a gallon of gas was $2.80.

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