After every automaker doing business in the U.S. signed off on two letters asking President Donald Trump to reconsider national mpg standards, consumer advocacy groups have asked him to keep the rules in place.
The groups, Consumers Union which publishes Consumer Reports, and the Consumer Federation of America, said in their joint letter that cheaper fuel costs promised by tough Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards benefit Americans.
SEE ALSO: Automakers Distressed Over EPA’s Fuel Economy Announcement
To date, there is no official indication President Trump will re-open review of the fuel economy and emission standards through 2025, but things could be headed that way.
The day after Trump was inaugurated, the Auto Alliance representing 77 percent of U.S. automakers asked him to reconsider rules for 2022-2025 and that has since been added to by the global automakers. In all, these groups represent 13 automakers who are asking Trump to review rules set under the Obama administration.
The automakers’ letters were a response in turn to a move performed at the end of Obama’s presidency to either lock in or make the EPA rules difficult to modify.
SEE ALSO: EPA Finalizes 2025 Fuel Economy Rules Before Trump Enters Office
In the case of politics as usual, the EPA under Obama rushed a final determination for 2022-2025 rules early this year ahead of an April 2018 deadline. The action was decried by automakers who say the rules are too tough, and will cost as many as 1 million jobs, with resultant losses to the U.S. economy.
With their letter this week, Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America – who represent consumer interests – now beg to differ.
SEE ALSO: Automakers to New EPA Chief: Drop Obama’s CO2 Rules
“If standards are rolled back, the biggest losers will be hardworking Americans, many of whom put Trump into office,” said CFA Director of Public Affairs Jack Gillis in a phone interview today. “The biggest winners will be foreign oil which we’ve done a pretty good job of reducing dependence on because of these standards.”
The CU/CFA letter also bypasses any talk of greenhouse gas, as Trump is not a believer in man-made climate change. It instead speaks to interests he was elected to champion.
This shift in rhetoric to suit the change in political winds has been seen already, such as by Tesla, which recently posted a video touting “energy security” and avoiding talk of climate change although this is very much also an interest for parties involved.
At this stage, Gillis said his organization and Consumers Union are proactively preparing, and want a “seat at the table” should Trump attempt to reopen the review of CAFE standards.
The CFA backs its assertion that CAFE standards “can save consumers thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle in reduced gas costs, even at today’s lower prices” with data from “numerous” cost-benefit analyses.
“It is clear to us that the car companies are working very hard to reopen the discussion and obviously their intent is not to beef it up, but to roll it back,” Gillis said.
SEE ALSO: CAFE’s Midterm Evaluation For 2022-2025 Could Electrify Automakers One Way Or The Other
Ironically, the 13 automakers doing business in North America had previously signed off on the rules they may now wish to contest, he said. And, they agreed to it when “they weren’t doing so well and now they are doing smashing” he said of solid profits and sales record in recent years.
Ironic also is the carmakers have demonstrated they can profit despite being well on their way to ramping up mpg and curtailing fleet average CO2.
“When we look at their performance over the years, its clear the automakers are well on their way to meeting an estimated 40 mpg by 2025 – keep in mind that’s 8 years away.”
Publications more often publish the EPA’s standard of “54.5” mpg or a few mpg less to satisfy CAFE, but on window stickers that consumers will see, the rules equate to high 30s, or low 40s by 2025 compared to mid 20s today.
Following is the open letter in its entirety.
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America, we ask that you maintain the strong fuel economy standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency. These standards help to lower fuel costs for middle class families across the country, support job creation and innovation, and improve air quality.
Rolling back fuel economy standards would hurt hard-working, middle-class Americans and small businesses that rely on a car or truck for their livelihood. Even at today’s lower prices, gasoline is a major expense for a majority of American families. Fuel economy standards are a cost-effective way to save consumers money on fuel. In fact, Consumers Union’s research shows that consumers would enjoy net savings of $3,200 per car and $4,800 per truck, over the life of a vehicle that meet the 2025 standards, even at today’s low gas prices. If gas prices rise, which we expect they will, the savings would be significantly higher. And when consumers save money, they spend it on local goods and services, helping to further boost the economy and encourage more job growth.
Rolling back the standards will rob consumers of these savings, providing them with less expendable income. For families struggling to cover basic needs, this would be an added burden. Improving fuel efficiency in cars and trucks not only saves money today, but help provide families with a bit of insurance against future gas price increases. In fact, strong majorities of consumers across the political spectrum value fuel economy standards—our recent surveys and polls show that about 80% of Americans support the standards.
Thanks to fuel economy standards, the automakers have invested in innovative technologies to improve fuel economy, and their efforts have paid off. Automakers have not only met today’s fuel economy standards, but they have exceeded the standards in many cases, all while enjoying record profits and record sales. Many cars and trucks available today outperform standards set for 2020 and 2021. And one of the great features of the fuel economy standards is that they are flexible and adapt to the vehicles consumers actually buy–as consumer demand has shifted toward larger vehicles, automakers’ targets have also lowered because larger vehicles have lower efficiency targets. The standards help improve consumer choices across the entire fleet regardless of the size of vehicles consumers choose to buy. Finally, the standards will go a long way to keeping the car companies from again needing a bailout as they did when their lots were filled with unsold inefficient vehicles the last time gas prices peaked.
Consumers are relying on fuel economy standards to lower their fuel costs in the future. Staying the course on fuel economy supports working families and increases American jobs, which are top priorities for our nation.
Consumer Federation of America
Cc: Administrator G. Scott Pruitt, EPA
Secretary Elaine Chao, DOT
Kevin Green, DOT
Bill Charmley, EPA
Chris Grundler, EPA
Michael Olechiw EPA
Rebecca Yoon, NHTSA
James Tamm, NHTSA
Mike McCarthy, CARB
Annette Hebert, CARB