WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced a new review of federal auto fuel-economy and emissions rules Wednesday afternoon during a visit to suburban Detroit, where he vowed to restore the automaking industry to its former glory.
“Buy American, hire American,” he said at Willow Run Airport near the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti in Southeast Michigan, a non-profit testing and product development facility for vehicles of the future.
“We’re going to use the full economic powers of our country to protect our workers and protect our jobs,” the president told hundreds of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler workers who were bused in for speech.
Trump previewed his announcement about the standards during a round-table meeting with U.S. and foreign auto executives at the facility before his speech.
Automakers have been seeking a review of new standards for vehicles that the Environmental Protection Agency approved just before Trump’s inauguration. They want lower fuel-economy requirements and less-stringent controls on carbon dioxide emissions.
Trump said the EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation are reopening a review of the standards that are set to go into effect in 2025.
“The assault on the American auto industry is over,” Trump said during his 19-minute speech. “Believe me, it’s over.”
Automakers have said that they might not be able to meet current long-term fuel economy goals because of cheaper gas prices. When fuel is cheap car buyers tend to buy gas guzzlers, making it hard for automakers to sell as many of the gas-efficient vehicles required to meet the regulations.
A group of 18 automakers, including General Motors and Ford, sent a letter to the Trump administration late last month asking for a review of the requirements.
The plan, originally announced by the Obama administration in 2012, would require automakers to achieve Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. (In reality, cars would average about 42 mpg. So-called CAFE mileage is calculated differently from expected real-world fuel economy.)
Automakers have argued that those regulations would push up the costs of new vehicles, since expensive technology and lightweight materials are required to boost efficiency.
But environmental and consumer groups say that increasing fuel efficiency has not increased car prices, and that reducing fuel- economy standards could cost consumers thousands if gas prices spike
“Fuel economy standards ensure cars and trucks go farther on less gas and save Americans money, while helping working-class and lower-income families the most,” Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in a statement sent to reporters ahead of Trump’s announcement.
But the heads of the EPA and the Department of Transportation lauded the plans for a review of the standards.
“Today’s decision by the EPA is a win for the American economy,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a Wednesday statement.
“These standards are costly for automakers and the American people,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic. This thorough review will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment.”