So there he was this week in Detroit, addressing about 1,000 people inside the American Center for Mobility. A banner behind him read, “Buy American – Hire American.” Trump announced that “the assault on the American auto industry is over!” He was going to set up “a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” And he was starting by ordering a review of those pesky fuel efficiency standards “so you can make cars in America again.”
Trump didn’t mention that the three major agencies regulating auto emissions (the EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and California Air Resources Board) had all agreed to the current 35.5 mile-per-gallon standard in 2012, with a review planned for this year. That’s phase one, with the goal to keep on producing much more efficient cars and trucks by 2025 – getting as much as 54 miles per gallon.
The aim is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as many as 570 million metric tons in 2030. That’s equivalent to closing down 140 typical coal-fired power plants for a whole year! By that time, consumers will save an estimated $140 billion. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “When compared to a typical vehicle on the road today, a new car buyer will save more than $8,000 over the lifetime of a new 2025 vehicle, even after paying for the more fuel-efficient technology.”
A study in 2012 by the Blue Green Alliance determined that the next round of standards would create some 570,000 American jobs across the U.S. economy, including about 50,000 in light-duty vehicle manufacturing (parts and assembly).
And the two phases of fuel economy standards will save more than three million barrels of oil a day in 2030 – the same as we import now from the Persian Gulf and Venezuela combined.
Wow, a huge job creator, money saver, and environmental boon! To paraphrase somebody in a high position, making America great again! A real win-win. But apparently not if you’re the Auto Alliance, a trade association that’s claimed the EPA ruling is “arbitrary and capricious” and had challenged the ruling in court even before Trump’s announcement. Now the new administration alleges that the EPA ignored a “voluminous record of data” in determining the efficiency standards.
As it stands, California – the nation’s biggest car market – and a dozen other states are permitted to enact stricter emissions regulations than the federal government. What the Trump EPA would like to do is make that illegal.
So are automakers now going to offer us fewer hybrid or electric cars, since they don’t make as much profit as trucks and SUVs? Are we going back to the days of the gas guzzlers while they scrap subcompacts?
When the President of the United Auto Workers told Trump at the meeting that “we have to deal with the environment and we have to do it in a responsible way,” our No. 1 fool-efficiency expert replied that he agreed “100 percent.” He went on to say that he didn’t think lower standards would hold manufacturers back from making new cars. “If it takes an extra thimble of fuel, we don’t want that to stop you,” Trump said.
I’d like to tell him where to stick that extra thimble. Trump be nimble, Trump be quick….