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MPG Standards Up For a Fight

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Republican lawmakers pushed back against the Obama administration’s signature plan to boost the average new vehicle’s fuel economy to more than 50 mpg by 2025, with a Texas congressman saying the plan should be repealed, Automotive News reports. 

“You can make a good intellectual case to repeal CAFE and let the market handle it,” U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said of the Corporate Fuel Economy Standards overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “If Mr. Trump is president … we’ll be back.”

Barton was the only lawmaker in a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing today to suggest that the more than 40-year-old regulations setting mpg standards for U.S. cars and light trucks should be repealed. Yet other GOP members of the committee criticized the Obama administration’s 2025 fuel economy standards, which are undergoing a midterm evaluation by regulators, automakers and other stakeholders to determine whether they should remain the same or be changed. A final decision is due in 2018.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said gas prices hovering around $2 a gallon will make it more difficult for consumers to recoup the higher sticker prices of hybrids and other highly efficient vehicles through fuel savings.

“If done wrong,” the 2025 standards will hurt consumers and carmakers “big time,” Upton said.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, chairman of the panel’s Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee, questioned EPA and NHTSA officials about whether lightweighting of vehicles to aid fuel economy improvements is putting vehicle safety at risk.

“We don’t think there is a conflict between safety and fuel economy,” said Paul Hemmersbaugh, NHTSA’s chief counsel.

U.S. traffic fatalities increased more than 7 percent in 2015 to 35,092 deaths, the largest increase since 1966 and reversing the long-term trend of falling crash deaths.

Regulators estimate the fleet will average 50 mpg to 52.6 mpg in 2025. 

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