Throwing it into reverse on car fuel efficiency standards

  • Published on March 8th, 2017

Eleven Democratic senators have signed a letter to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt calling on him not to do what’s rumored could happen this week: rolling back the fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and prohibiting California from imposing stricter standards than the federal government does.

By Meteor Blades

All this could be a major setback for electric cars. That, of course, makes no never mind to Pr*sident Trump or Pruitt, both of them climate science deniers, and both attached at the hip and wallet to the fossil fuel industry.

Led by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, the senators, all Democrats except for independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wrote:

These automobile emissions standards are economically feasible and technologically achievable for the auto industry as the Final Determination demonstrates. They will enhance our national security by reducing our consumption of foreign oil. They will benefit consumers, saving them billions of dollars at the pump and reduce our carbon pollution. They provide certainty to the auto industry, which is already investing in the technologies and designs for the vehicles they will sell in these later years of the program. It is critical that they remain in place.

The standards—formally known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)—were first established in 1975 in the wake of the Arab oil embargo. They imposed a rise in fuel economy that boosted the average efficiency of passenger cars from 18.5 miles per gallon in 1978 to 27.5 mpg in 1985. But that is where they stayed for the next 26 years.

Then in 2011, President Obama jawboned a reluctant but economically beleaguered auto industry into agreeing to double that average to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Today, the average is hovering around 36 mpg, right where it was supposed to be for the 2017 models.

In a press release from Markey’s office taking note of the letter:

President Trump is waging a war on the environment, and he wants EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to make our strong fuel economy emissions standards his latest victim,” said Senator Markey. “Undoing the fuel efficiency standards would harm consumers, weaken our energy security, and increase global warming pollution. Strong fuel efficiency standards have put American consumers in the driver’s seat, and that’s where they should stay.” […]

“Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt want to pump the brakes on fuel efficiency standards, throw us into reverse, and recklessly roll back down the road we just came from,” said Senator [Jeff] Merkley.  “It’s bad for our economy, it’s bad for the environment, and it’s bad for middle class families.”

Melissa Nann Burke reports:

The fuel-economy standards were supposed to be reviewed in 2018, but after a brief comment period that ended Dec. 30, the EPA pushed through portions of the regulations just days before Trump took office. The Auto Alliance, a trade group which represents automakers including the Detroit Three, has said this “unnecessarily politicized” the midterm review of the emission standards by moving to finalize the regulations ahead of schedule.

Mitch Bainwol, the alliance’s CEO, wrote to Pruitt that the CAFE rules are “the product of egregious procedural and substantive defects and are “riddled with indefensible assumptions, inadequate analysis and a failure to engage with contrary evidence.” Not only will it cost $200 billion to meet the 50mpg+ standards but, the alliance says, it’s not technologically possible. That claim is made even though the industry has been able to comply with the standards so far over a five-year period, during which auto sales have soared to a record high.

Here is the senators’ entire letter:

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(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)

About the Author

Meteor Blades is a writer and contributing editor at DailyKos. He believes there is something profoundly wrong with our system. - the unchecked accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of a very small group of corporate business interests has contributed to the wholesale corruption of our political system. For an understanding about the level of corruption in our country, he encourages you to view these two PBS documentaries: (1). ,The Untouchables; (2) The United States of ALEC.