The rollbacks don’t stop coming.
In one of its latest moves, the Trump administration announced a proposal on Thursday to eliminate Obama-era fuel efficiency rules and revoke a waiver that has allowed California to set its own, higher, mileage standards since 1970.
In opposition to the 2012 rule that would have raised standards to 54 miles-per-gallon by 2025, the Trump proposal would freeze fuel efficiency targets in 2020 and require far fewer electric vehicles to be sold.
While the administration claims the change will improve road safety by making newer vehicles more affordable, critics — which include environmental groups and automakers — aren’t buying it. In a statement, trade groups representing GM, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, and other manufacturers said “automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs and the environment.”
Deaths from U.S. car crashes have dropped from 5.18 per 100 million vehicle miles travelled in 1969 (right before stricter standards were initiated by the Clean Air Act) to 1.16 in 2016 — translating to a reduction from 55,000 deaths annually to 37,000.
While the fuel efficiency announcement officially came from both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, which jointly share jurisdiction for clean car rules, a former EPA staffer told E&E News that the agency was pushed aside and does not support the analysis.
“They put the EPA logo on specifically to deceive the American public to make it look like the agency technical staff was involved in the analysis…but nothing could be farther from the truth.”
Also in the news:
• Ebola is back. Just one week after the Democratic Republic of Congo’s health ministry declared the country’s latest outbreak over, four new cases have been confirmed 1,500 miles away in the North Kivu Province bordering Uganda and Rwanda. The species of Ebolavirus responsible has not yet been determined, but health officials say there is no indication of a link between this and the previous outbreak in Equateur Province. That outbreak was caused by the Zaire species of the virus — one of four known to cause Ebola in humans. An experimental vaccine was developed as part of the response, but because the new outbreak could be caused by one of the other three species, it’s unknown if that vaccine can be used again. (Science)
• Reports have surfaced in Japanese media that Tokyo Medical University has for years been lowering the test scores of female applicants to keep the ratio of women enrolled below 30 percent. According to an unnamed university official, the school “believed accepting more male students would help solve the university hospital’s doctor shortage because female doctors would inevitably drop out of the workforce after they get married and give birth to children.” The source described to Yomiuri Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, how the university automatically deducted a certain number of points from female applicants scores to prevent them from moving onto the next stage in the process. While 303 men and 148 women were reported to have passed the first stage, 141 men and 30 women were ultimately accepted. Speaking to BuzzFeed Japan, a spokesperson for Tokyo Medical University said the results of an internal investigation into the matter will be made public later this month. (BuzzFeed News)
• Feel like you’re in a fog? You might be a little dehydrated. A meta-analysis published this week looked at 33 studies and found that even a relatively minor loss of 1.5 percent of normal water volume can cause everything from mood changes to muddled thinking. This, of course, isn’t all that surprising. A growing body of evidence, on which the analysis relied, has for some time been suggesting that dehydration impairs cognitive performance. Take, for instance, a study in March — funded by PepsiCo — that dehydrated healthy and active women and then asked them to play a complex card game, in which they introduced 12 percent more total errors than they did when they were fully hydrated. Or, a 2012 study that showed a lack of water can cause headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. When in doubt, the color of your urine can be a helpful guide, says one physiologist. If it’s darker than “pale lemonade,” it’s time to reach for that glass of water. (NPR)
• In China, a growing taste for meat could put the country’s climate goals in jeopardy. During the 1980s, before the population hit one billion, the average Chinese person consumed 30 pounds of meat per year. Rising incomes, along with an additional 380 million people, have caused that number to rise to nearly 140 pounds. “One could argue that Chinese just want to enjoy the kind of life Westerners have for years. In the end, per capita meat consumption in China is still half that of the United States,” said Pan Genxing, director of the Institute of Resources, Environment, and Ecosystem of Agriculture at Nanjing Agricultural University. But as the world’s largest emitter of carbon, all that meat comes at a cost. Indeed, a 2014 Nature study found that to keep up with global demand for meat, agricultural emissions worldwide would need to increase by 80 percent by 2050, which could by itself hinder the goals set forth at the Paris climate accord in 2015. (Undark)
• And finally: The largest known colony of king penguins, located on a remote island in the southern Indian Ocean, has lost nearly 90 percent of its population, according to a recent study of satellite imaging. Researchers last counted the massive colony on the Île aux Cochons in person in 1982 when there were 500,000 breeding pairs. But a study published last week in Antarctic Science concludes the population has fallen to as few as 60,000 breeding pairs. Researchers suspect climate change may be a primary factor in the colony’s unprecedented decline. They plan to return to “Pig Island” in the fall of 2019 to further assess the health of the king penguin colonies there. While king penguins, with an estimated 1.5 to 1.7 million breeding pairs worldwide, have not previously been considered endangered, confirming the count from satellite imagery could change all that. (New York Times)