Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled a proposal for freezing fuel economy standards at 2020 levels for cars and trucks built for the 2021-2026 model years.
A number of people were upset about the proposal as it meant automakers would only need to hit an average fuel economy rating of 37 mpg (44 mpg UK / 6.3L / 100km). This figure is far lower than Obama-era plan which called for a corporate average fuel economy rating of 54.5 mpg (65.4 mpg UK / 4.3L / 100km) by 2025.
The government attempted to explain the need for lower fuel economy standards by making the bizarre claim that the eased regulation would actually save lives. In fact, the proposal is officially called the “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule” and the government claimed the proposal is “anticipated to prevent thousands of on-road fatalities and injuries as compared to the standards set forth in the 2012 final rule.”
The government attempted to explain this thinking by saying that cars and trucks will be more affordable under new rule and, therefore, more people will buy them. The government also noted new cars are safer than old cars, so lives would be saved.
That’s a bit of leap, to say the least, and a new report from the Associated Press seems to contradict the government’s official stance. According to e-mails obtained by the news service, senior EPA staffers told the Office of Management and Budget that the new rules would actually increase fatalities instead of preventing them. As the EPA’s director of the assessments and standards division for the office of transportation and air quality said, the “proposed standards are detrimental to safety, rather than beneficial.”
If the EPA’s analysis is correct, the 17 more people would be killed every year under the new proposal. This is in stark contrast to the government’s claim that the proposal could save up to 1,000 lives annually.
The proposal has a long way to go before it becomes law and 19 states have joined forces to sue over the proposal.