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Auto and Light Truck Emission Rules are Still Problematic

Summary:
“New Auto Emissions Rules Have a Loophole You Can Drive a Light-Duty Truck Through” (treehugger.com), Lloyd Alter, December 2021 ~~~~~~~~ President Biden and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have revised the existing greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Rolling back in four years the rollbacks the Trump administration implemented to change the standards set in place by the Obama administration is disruptive for automotive companies and the Tiers. Having done so, the rollback leaves companies scrambling to implement business plans to adjust to the back-and-forth regulations. Or maybe it is not so hard given the way emissions and mileage is calculated using “fleet” data. “These new

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New Auto Emissions Rules Have a Loophole You Can Drive a Light-Duty Truck Through” (treehugger.com), Lloyd Alter, December 2021

~~~~~~~~

President Biden and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have revised the existing greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Rolling back in four years the rollbacks the Trump administration implemented to change the standards set in place by the Obama administration is disruptive for automotive companies and the Tiers.

Having done so, the rollback leaves companies scrambling to implement business plans to adjust to the back-and-forth regulations. Or maybe it is not so hard given the way emissions and mileage is calculated using “fleet” data.

“These new ambitious emission standards are cost-effective and achieve significant public health and welfare benefits. The benefits of this rule exceed the costs by as much as $190 billion. Benefits include reduced impacts of climate change, improved public health from lower pollution, and cost savings for vehicle owners through improved fuel efficiency. American drivers will save between $210 billion and $420 billion through 2050 on fuel costs.  On average over the lifetime of an individual MY 2026 vehicle, EPA estimates that the fuel savings will exceed the initial increase in vehicle costs by more than $1,000 for consumers.”

But . . .

It could be better. SUVs and pickup trucks treatment is different. Different since 1975 when fuel economy regulations were imposed. It may have once made sense to treat light-duty trucks differently than cars when they were actual working vehicles. The family 1 ton dually is going to the mall to do some shopping and the back cargo box will rust or corrode out before it gets dirty.

As noted by Brad Plumer a decade ago (Washington Post) all of the reasoning changed;

“Automakers quickly realized that they could build more SUVs and light trucks (as well as cars designed to meet light-truck standards, like the Subaru Outback) in order to sidestep the rules.”

Higher “miles per gallon” cars averaged out lower miles per gallon light trucks to meet the EPA standard. The same holds true for CO2 emissions. As shown in Table 1 for example.

Auto and Light Truck Emission Rules are Still Problematic

Light-duty trucks, the official name for SUVs and pickup trucks, are still treated differently, as they have been since 1975 when fuel economy regulations were first imposed. It may have once made sense to treat light-duty trucks differently than cars when they were actually working vehicles, but as Brad Plumer noted a decade ago in The Washington Post,

“Automakers quickly realized that they could build more SUVs and light trucks (as well as cars designed to meet light-truck standards, like the Subaru Outback) in order to sidestep the rules.”

Light Truck lower mileage per gallon and higher emissions numbers are lower only after averaging with automobile results for an acceptable fleet. This allows for more profitable light trucks and fewer automobiles. And the overall averages are acceptable. Maybe it is time to measure each vehicle?

Trump cancelled these easy regs and Biden signed them back into law with improved goals. Still not enough. Light

trucks and SUVs should have their own goals without averaging in with cars. SUVs and pickup trucks, have been treated differently since 1975 when fuel economy regulations were first imposed. It may have once made sense to treat light-duty trucks differently than cars when they were actually working vehicles, but as Brad Plumer noted a decade ago in The Washington Post,

“Automakers quickly realized that they could build more SUVs and light trucks (as well as cars designed to meet light-truck standards, like the Subaru Outback) in order to sidestep the rules.”

So, automotive is scamming the regulations because they can!

The 161 CO2 grams/mi shown for 2026 and later in the 2nd table is still based on the combined fleet average. Passenger cars hitting 132 grams/mi and light-duty trucks 187 grams/mi, which is even higher than the 2022 standard for cars. This is the “light-duty truck loophole” that lets the U.S. auto industry continue to sell bigger and more profitable SUVs and pickups, allowing them to pump out 41% higher CO2 emissions than passenger cars.

Since automotive manufacturers are abandoning the manufacture of autos, it is interesting how they came up 47% auto and 53% light trucks and SUVs. The change could be used to implement more effective standards for light trucks. It makes sense to abandon fleet averaging calculations assigning different and lower goals for Light trucks and SUVs. I could hear the squealing now!

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