By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News
WASHINGTON—Half-starved conservationists have been thrown so few crumbs by the Obama administration that it’s tempting for some to praise the bread bits tossed their way as the most scrumptious they have ever feasted upon.
Take fuel economy standards, for instance.
When the president announced a Friday pact with 13 automakers that would force cars and light trucks to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, hallelujahs were emitted nationwide. It is being praised as a historic, job-creating, dollar-saving, air-cleansing, carbon-curbing savior.
The new round of standards, which covers model years 2017 through 2025, is heralded as a pathway for raising fuel economy 75 percent above 2010 levels. It has the potential to save more oil — 1.5 million barrels per day — than this nation now imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined.
All of that red, white and blue pageantry, however, dwarfed the caution flags raised by transportation policy experts. Among those adding a hue of yellow to the conversation is think tank specialist Therese Langer, who saw plenty of space for loopholes when she lifted up the hood to examine the agreement.
“Don’t get me wrong, I also think this is a big deal,” Langer told SolveClimate News. “Getting to that level of 54.5 miles per gallon is an impressive achievement.”
But Langer, transportation program director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, also sees some shortcomings in the way the proposal is being ironed out.
One, she fears the auto industry will try to water down regulations during the built-in “mid-course review.” And, two, she is afraid the deal doesn’t maximize the potential of advanced vehicle technology and includes provisions that could undermine economic and environmental benefits. Her specific concerns center around the formula used to reach the much-ballyhooed 54.5 mpg standard, the leniency granted to big trucks, and how emissions from electric vehicles will be counted.