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Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Trump administration's final rules weakening Obama-era vehicle mileage and emissions standards through the mid-2020s include some surprising safety claims.

Driving the news: In what is shaping up to be a major legal battle with environmentalists, the federal government said it will require 1.5% annual increases in fuel efficiency through 2026 — far weaker than the 5% increases under the previous rules that the industry said it couldn't meet.

  • Instead of Obama's requirement for a fleetwide average of 46.7 miles per gallon, vehicle fleets will average 40.4 miles per gallon by 2026, per Reuters.
  • The new rules will save automakers upward of $100 billion in compliance costs.

Context: It's important to note that conditions have changed dramatically since Obama crafted the original rules in 2012.

  • Consumers are buying many more trucks and SUVs than the Obama rules had anticipated, while fuel prices are much lower.
  • Hence, automakers asked the Trump administration to reconsider the standards.

What they're saying: The government claims that by making newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles more affordable for American families, more lives will be saved and more jobs will be created.

  • While it admits consumers will pay about $1,000 more in fuel costs over the life of their vehicle, cars will be cheaper — about $1,000, conveniently, the administration says — without the huge regulatory burden on carmakers.
  • Overall, the total cost of ownership over the vehicle's life will be $1,400 lower, the administration claims.

Details:

  • The administration argues cars will be safer because automakers won't be pressured to reduce vehicle weight and because people will be able to afford newer vehicles, which have more safety features.
  • The change in CO2 standards will result in 3,269 fewer fatalities, the analysis shows.

But, as Reuters' David Shepardson points out on Twitter, most of the safety gains from the new rule are not from improved vehicles but from Americans driving less.

  • With a projected 605 billion fewer miles traveled under the new rule, there will be 2,584 fewer highway fatalities.
  • Less driving accounts for 80% of the lives saved.
  • Less driving also means cars won't need to be replaced as often, undermining the government's argument.

My thought bubble: I'm a journalist, not a mathematician. But something doesn't add up.

Go deeper: Battle lines are drawn over Trump's weakening of emissions rules

Go deeper

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Kaine, Collins pitch Senate colleagues on censuring Trump

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks with Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine and Susan Collins are privately pitching their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution censuring former President Trump, three sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction in his second impeachment.

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