Don’t slam brakes on mandate for cleaner cars

Under the Trump administration’s plan to roll back fuel efficiency standards, motorists will pay more at the pump, get worse gas mileage and breathe dirtier air.

Congratulations! We’ve all hit the trifecta.

As the rest of the world moves toward more efficient cars and tries to curb global warming, President Donald Trump’s plan is a move in the wrong direction. Standards adopted by the Obama administration called for automakers to achieve a fleetwide average of 54.5 mpg by 2026, but Trump would freeze the standard after 2020 at 37 mpg. He also wants to revoke a waiver for California to create its own tougher standards, including a mandate that a certain number of electric cars be sold each year. Thirteen states, including New York, follow California’s rules, and account for more than a third of the nation’s auto sales.

The Trump administration says the trade-off for higher emissions would be safer cars and fewer deaths on the road, a proposition so dubious that even Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist who now heads the Environmental Protection Agency, told officials that the evidence backing it was questionable. Even automakers are uncomfortable with the move. They wanted the Obama standards to be relaxed, but worry Trump is going too far. They want one plan, with California involved, and are urging a compromise.

Transportation is now the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, surpassing power plants. Reining in the sector is imperative. One energy research firm said worsening air quality produced by Trump’s plan would cause 13,000 deaths by 2050.

The deal Barack Obama reached in 2012, with auto companies participating, roughly doubled fuel economy for cars. It has saved drivers $57 billion at the pump. It has lowered carbon emissions and produced cleaner air. It has reduced our dependence on oil.

Trump’s plan would reverse all that progress. It’s a loser.