Then President Trump, who incorrectly claimed that climate change is a Chinese hoax, was elected. Even before he took office, automakers pushed his transition team to revisit the Obama-era clean car standards. Automakers weren’t the only ones, either: The New York Times discovered a secretive oil-industry campaign to gut the fuel economy regulations that threaten their bottom line.
In April 2018, the Trump administration concluded that the Obama-era standards for model year 2022 through 2025 light-duty vehicles “may be too stringent,” and called for revisions. A few months later, the Trump administration unveiled new plans to freeze greenhouse gas and miles-per-gallon standards at 2020 levels through model year 2026. That’s expected to flatline the fleet’s fuel efficiency at an average of 37 miles-per-gallon.
The steep rollbacks were more than the auto industry had anticipated, forcing major carmakers to backpedal from an alliance they’d once cultivated. “We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback,” Ford executives Bill Ford and Jim Hackett wrote in a blog post. At that point, the Ford executives said, the company was already on track to invest $11 billion in cleaning up its cars.