Trump, Pruitt waging war on fuel standards

The Trump administration by way of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, is attacking a program that spurs innovation, has saved consumers $4 trillion at the gas pump, and has drastically cut air pollution. Trump and Pruitt want to weaken new fuel efficiency standards for cars, SUVs and light trucks, a move that will hurt consumers and pump more greenhouse gas pollution into our atmosphere.


In 1975, in response to soaring gas prices and the Arab oil embargo, Congress first passed the first fuel efficiency standards, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The first CAFE standards required automakers to almost double their new car fleets’ miles per gallon averages to 27.5 by 1985. CAFE standards for light trucks followed in 1978 requiring truck manufacturers to increase average mpg to 22.2 by 2007. In response, auto manufacturers produced a wide variety of vehicles that both met the standards and satisfied consumer demands and expectations for performance and good gas mileage.


To continue improving the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act which required automakers to meet new, better standards – a fleetwide average of 35 mpg for cars, SUVs and light trucks. President George W. Bush signed the legislation, stating, “We make a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations of our country a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure.”


In 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, and the agency issued new clean car regulations in 2010 that limits greenhouse gas pollution in auto emissions. The Clean Air Act allows California to set stricter fuel efficiency and pollution standards which also have been adopted by 13 other states. President Obama negotiated a deal with automakers and environmental groups in 2012 that would further strengthen clean air and fuel standards resulting in vehicles achieving an average of more than 50 mpg.


When fully implemented, the combination of better fuel efficiency and cleaner technology will save consumers from $3200 to $8000 on gas over the life of a new car, reduce oil consumption by 3 million barrels a day, create 570,000 new jobs and slash global warming pollution by 570 million metric tons – the equivalent of shutting down 140 coal-fired power plants.


China and Europe understand the power of fuel efficiency standards to protect their environments, build their economies, and compete in the global market. They are implementing fuel efficiency standards stronger than our standards that Trump and Pruitt want to eliminate.


Despite the success of fuel efficiency and clean car standards and their benefits to the economy and the environment, Trump and Pruitt want to roll back the new standards. On April 2, Pruitt announced the EPA is abandoning them. Vehicles are now the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution - 37 percent – more than the pollution coming from power plants.


If we lose this potent tool to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, we will set back progress toward a safe climate by a generation. Fuel efficiency and clean car standards have saved Pennsylvania families thousands at the gas pump, made the air healthier and spurred innovation in auto manufacturing. And now we should and must fight for them.