Oil companies lobbied for Trump’s relaxed auto standards

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There’s already plenty of debate over the Trump administration’s plan to freeze fuel-economy and vehicle pollution standards as states like California vow to fight the relaxed rules, and even automakers signal their intent to press on developing cleaner cars. But one sector that is quietly cheering the proposal? U.S. producers.

Bloomberg reports that oil-industry leaders have supported the move behind the scenes, with including Marathon Petroleum, Koch Public Sector LLC and the refiner Andeavor disclosing lobbying activity on the issue this year. They’ve argued that the Obama-era Trump proposes to sweep aside are outdated, established when the U.S. was over-reliant on foreign oil, and that they don’t reflect huge increases in U.S. exports of crude oil and petroleum products since then.

“We come from a free-market perspective, where we believe consumers should have a choice in their vehicles, and they can weigh all the appropriate factors — be it size, horsepower, utility or fuel economy,” Derrick Morgan, senior vice president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade group, which advocated for the changes in a meeting at the White House in June, told Bloomberg. “We trust individual consumers to make the right decisions; we don’t think Washington or Sacramento should be making all those determinations.”

The Trump administration’s proposal would freeze fuel-efficiency standards at 2020 levels — about 37 miles per gallon by 2026, down from the Obama administration’s nearly 47 mpg — and weaken electric vehicle mandates. It said the freeze would boost U.S. oil consumption by around 500,000 barrels of oil a day by the 2030s, decrease vehicle-related fatalities by encourage consumers to buy new, safer cars — Autoblog scrutinizes that claim here — and lower projected regulatory costs for automakers by $319 billion through 2029.

Two trade groups representing GM, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and others have said that despite the administration’s proposal, they continue to support efforts to improve fuel economy and “incentivize advanced technologies.”

In an analysis of the proposed freeze, the researchers at the Rhodium Group noted that future oil prices would play a major role in determining the overall effect of the standards, since higher oil prices push consumers into smaller, more fuel-efficient cars (though of course, modern crossovers are quickly closing the fuel-economy gap on sedans). It notes that light trucks last year made up 65 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales, up from 50 percent in 2012, when oil prices peaked.

It said the freeze would equate to between $193 billion and $236 billion in additional cumulative fuel costs for consumers by 2035.

Not lost on many opponents of the freeze is the fact that nations around the world are experiencing extreme weather — triple-digit heat waves in Japan, wildfires in Sweden, Greece and California, and drought in South Africa — that scientists are directly tying to climate change, brought about in significant part by burning fossil fuels.

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