WASHINGTON -- Moving forcefully against Obama-era environmental rules, President Donald Trump announced in Michigan his plans to re-examine federal requirements that regulate the fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks.
“I’m sure you’ve all heard the big news that we’re going to work on the cafe standards so you can make cars in America again,” he said during an appearance Wednesday at the American Center for Mobility in Detroit. “We’re going to help the companies and they’re going to help you.”
Mr. Trump said his policy on the issue will usher in a “new future of American automotive leadership.”
“We want to be the car capital of the world again,” he added. “We will be and it won’t be long, believe me.”
Mr. Trump is challenging the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) emissions targets that were a centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s strategy to combat global warming. The rollback underscores the Trump administration’s rejection of mainstream climate science in an effort to boost economic growth.
The Detroit center was used to produce B-24 bombers during World War II and is now in the process of being converted into an automotive testing and product development center. While visiting there, the president is expected to meet with auto executives and workers and discuss “how his plans for rolling back federal red tape will lead to more American jobs and higher wages, specifically in the automobile sector,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
The EPA under Obama’s stewardship had promulgated a rule for cars and trucks requiring a fleet-wide average of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
The president will travel later Wednesday to Nashville, Tennessee, where he’ll lay a wreath at President Andrew Jackson’s tomb to mark what would have been Jackson’s 250th birthday, before holding a campaign-style rally in the city.
But the most significant move of the day will likely be the president’s announcement on the CAFE emissions targets. The move will have no immediate effect. But it is expected to set the stage for weaker fuel efficiency standards as well as drawn-out legal battles with environmental groups and states like California that have adopted their own tough tailpipe standards for drivers.
The president will target the Obama administration’s January decision to end a review process before he left office.
Back in 2012, the Obama set fuel-economy regulations for model years 2017-2025. The administration agreed to complete a midterm evaluation in 2018. But seven days before Obama left office, the EPA decided to keep the stringent requirements it had set in place for model years 2022 to 2025. The industry balked at the decision, insisting it was rushed through to beat the change in administrations.
Mr. Trump will announce that he’s putting that midterm review back on track, so that officials can spend another year studying the issue before setting new standards in 2018.
While the administration has not said explicitly it wants to weaken the standards, a senior White House official said the Obama-era EPA had ignored reams of data cited by the automotive industry. The official spoke on condition of anonymity at a White House briefing in order to outline the action, despite the president’s criticism of the use of un-named sources.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents a dozen major car manufacturers including General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota, last month urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to relax the standards, saying they will drive up car costs, price customers out of the market and depress the industry. Obama’s EPA had argued the costs to consumers were mitigated by gas savings and that the rules would decrease greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
Mr. Trump campaigned on eliminating “job killing” regulations, and the administration is expected to take additional steps in the coming days to roll back environmental regulations.
Environmentalists expect Mr. Trump to ease the gas mileage requirements, which translate to a fleet-wide average of 36 mpg in real-world driving by 2025. “This change makes no sense. Mileage standards save consumers money at the gas pump, make Americans less dependent on oil, reduce carbon pollution and advance innovation,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Once in Nashville, Mr. Trump will be given a private tour of Jackson’s home, according to Howard Kittell, the President and CEO of the Hermitage mansion. He’ll also lay a wreath at Jackson’s tomb in honor of the seventh president’s birthday and deliver remarks.
Jackson has enjoyed something of a resurgence thanks to Mr. Trump. During the campaign, some of Mr. Trump’s aides took to comparing him to the former president - a fellow populist outsider who took on a member of the Washington establishment and ran a campaign railing against corrupt elites.
Mr. Trump mused during his first days in Washington that “there hasn’t been anything like this since Andrew Jackson” and hung a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office after moving in.
Historians had been souring on the slave-owning president whose Indian Removal Act of 1830 commissioned the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands. More than 4,000 died during their journeys west.
Jackson’s standing had fallen so much that that the U.S. Treasury opted to remove Jackson from the $20 bill.
But Kittell said that attendance at the museum has surged since the election.
“Jackson is probably getting more media attention now,” Kittell said, ‘than when he was president.”