The Trump administration struggles with regulatory math

Source: By Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2020

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION STRUGGLES WITH REGULATORY ROLLBACK MATH: The Trump administration is having a little trouble with numbers.

Chiefly, Trump officials don’t seem to be able to get the math to work for some of the administration’s biggest environmental regulatory rollbacks. If they don’t figure it out soon, the White House’s promise to undo signature Obama-era climate and air pollution regulations before the November election will fall flat.

Fuel economy is the thorn in Trump’s side: Economists, environmentalists, and even some automakers ridiculed the Trump administration’s initial cost-benefit analysis it used to justify its proposal to freeze fuel economy limits at 2020 levels.

The analysis made assumptions about car prices and consumers’ driving habits that made no sense, and it misstated correlations between fuel efficiency and passenger safety, those critics said.

And career employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, largely shut out of developing the proposal, laid out in detail in documents in the rulemaking docket how the analysis was riddled with errors. Those employees found that instead of making vehicles safer, as the Trump administration has claimed, the proposal to freeze the standards would increase the rate of traffic fatalities, not to mention cost consumers more.

Going back to the drawing board hasn’t really helped: The White House has hit a dead end. In fact, as they’re crunching the numbers, they’re getting the opposite result of what they want: The costs of the rollback are greater than the benefits.

Draft documents obtained by Senator Tom Carper’s office say the White House’s final rule — which would require only a slight, 1.5%, year-over-year increase in fuel economy — would cost consumers at least $34.4 billion.

No matter how the Trump administration officials crunch the numbers, they’re finding that even though new car prices would be lower under a rollback, additional fuel costs would far outweigh those initial savings, according to a recent report from the New York Times. The analysis has been sent back to the Transportation Department again, the Times report says, though it isn’t clear whether they can fix the issues.

This isn’t even counting the climate costs: The Trump administration has downplayed the economic impacts from additional greenhouse emissions its fuel economy proposal would cause — something its critics are bound to focus on in the eventual legal battle over the rollback.

The Rhodium Group, for example, in recent analysis found even a 1.5% year-over-year increase in fuel economy would reduce emissions by only about one-fifth of what the Obama-era limits would have achieved. The Obama rules would have ultimately required a 5% year-over-year increase in fuel efficiency.

The Trump administration’s plans would cut transportation emissions by 143 million metric tons by 2035, compared to the nearly 800 million metric ton reduction the Obama administration’s standards would have led to by that point.