During his campaign, Donald Trump pledged to reduce regulations on U.S. businesses in ways that could reshape the trajectory of the automotive industry. But as a parting gift to Trump, President Barack Obama is pushing through various last-minute initiatives that could make it harder for him to do that.
That’s according to The Detroit News, which reported that Obama’s administration is “barreling ahead” with regulations on everything from the Environmental Protection Agency finalizing gas mileage rules to new rules for self-driving cars and connected vehicles.
“A lot of these rules can be with us for a long time, even if the administration is actively opposed to them from Day One,” Jeff Davis, senior fellow for the Eno Center for Transportation, told the News, in what basically comes across as a jab at Trump’s promise to rollback his predecessor’s endeavors.
Automakers, for one, seem to think they’ve found a friend in Trump. As we reported last month, the reality TV star has threatened to repeal economy and emissions regulations, but the EPA already went to work to make that far more difficult than the Republican nominee probably ever envisioned.
And the News reported that the EPA on Thursday denied a petition from auto lobbyists that called for the agency to withdraw its proposed determination “on the viability of the future gas mileage rules.”
Not every agency is moving full-regulatory-steam ahead. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration moved to postpone an increase in fines for auto companies that fail to comply with the fuel-efficiency standards.
Consumer advocates have also been hesitant about Trump’s deregulation drive, particularly as it relates to self-driving vehicles—but the industry itself seems pleased with Trump’s pick of Elaine Chao to run the federal transportation department.
The Obama administration’s likely well-aware its regulations will be jettisoned upon Trump’s arrival. But that could be to the benefit of his party.
Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, told the News that Democrats can have the chance to publicly duke it out with Trump over items like gas mileage rules.
“For example, by setting up tough environmental regulations that will be discarded, the Democrats can claim they are more concerned about the environment than the Republicans, who are likely to rescind the regulations as too far-reaching and onerous,” Nerad told the newspaper.
That hands off approach is winning cautious praise from those involved in self-driving tech. But with a president-elect who changes his mind on a moment’s notice, it seems caution is all anyone—from Obama with the regulatory push here, to advocates—can exert, at least, for now.