Quantcast

The Dirty Scheme to Make Americans Buy More Gasoline

Insights + Opinion
Ildar Sagdejev / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

By Rhea Suh

It's not often that an industry chieftain brags to investors about picking the pockets of American families with help from the White House.

That's what happened, though, after Big Oil schemed with the Trump administration last summer to ensure higher gasoline consumption—to the tune of $16 billion a year—and more climate-disrupting carbon pollution from our cars, vans and pickup trucks.


An important investigative story by the New York Times lays bare this craven sellout of the public interest and details the hammerlock the oil industry has on domestic policy under President Trump. The article details how the Trump administration bowed to the major oil companies to try and gut commonsense rules that were already saving consumers billions of dollars a year at the pump and helping clean up our dirty tailpipe emissions.

In a cynical confession, Gary Heminger, chairman of Marathon Petroleum, boasted to analysts last week that weakening the clean car rules would boost gasoline sales by up to 16.8 million gallons a day.

At $2.65 a gallon, the national November average, that comes to $44.5 million a day, or more than $16 billion a year, money that American workers won't be able to spend on their families' needs because it will go, instead, to the oil industry. "However," Heminger warned investors, "you have another side who doesn't want to pivot away" from the fuel savings and pollution reductions the rules support. "So we have a lot of work to do to keep this momentum going."

That so-called "work" doesn't come cheap. In the national elections of 2016 and 2018, campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry totaled $176 million, with 87 cents of every dollar going to Trump's party.

It's paying off for the industry—at the country's expense.

In 2012, with the endorsement of the major automakers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation teamed up on a pair of rules that cut tailpipe pollution from our cars, vans, SUVs and pickup trucks. The rules had the industry on track to double gas mileage by 2025, cutting the nation's oil consumption by a staggering 2.4 million barrels per day by 2030.

It's one of the most important steps we've taken, as a country, to protect future generations from the growing dangers of climate change. That's because our cars and light trucks account for about 17 percent of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contributing to the problem. Mile for mile, the 2012 rules cut the carbon footprint of driving in half.

The measures have supported a surge in manufacturing jobs, with nearly 300,000 Americans hard at work helping us to get more miles from a gallon of gas or moving us closer to the electric cars and hybrid vehicles of the future. Some 70,000 of those jobs are in Michigan alone, where more than 224 facilities are turning out materials or components to help make our cars run cleaner and more efficiently.

Last August, though, the Trump administration proposed gutting the rules, throwing national support for clean car progress into reverse. Automakers wanted flexibility in meeting the clean car standards. On balance, though, the rules complemented tens of billions of dollars in industry investment in a new generation of automobiles.

So it was something of a mystery as to why the administration turned away from standards that save our families billions of dollars a year at the pump, fight the central environmental challenge of our time, and help create scores of thousands of well-paying jobs. The Times article provides the answer: it's not the automakers but, rather, the oil companies that see the road ahead through the rearview mirror.

We're not going to stand by and watch Donald Trump put our future at risk to pump up oil profits. We're fighting this proposal. We'll make our case in court, if necessary, and we've joined other groups in calling on the EPA and the Transportation Department to come clean about how the administration sold out our environment and our pocketbooks in its fealty to fossil fuels.

As my NRDC colleague Luke Tonachel testified in a federal hearing on the proposed changes last September, "We Americans pay taxes so that the government will serve and protect us, not Big Oil."

Rhea Suh is the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Cigarette butts are the most-littered item found at beach clean ups. John R. Platt

By Tara Lohan

By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.

Read More Show Less

Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust

By Fran Korten

On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday. SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube screenshot

Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday as they demanded the paper improve its coverage of the climate crisis, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Explosions and a blaze at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex on June 21. VOA News / YouTube screenshot

A fire broke out at a Philadelphia oil refinery Friday morning, starting with an explosion so massive it was felt as far away as South Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania, CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

Leeks belong to the same family as onions, shallots, scallions, chives and garlic.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Asian elephants in Bandipur National Park, India. Mike Prince / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

Some of the tiniest creatures in Myanmar benefit from living near the largest species in the area.

Read More Show Less
Design by Lauren Park

By Natalie Butler, RD, LD

Green smoothies are one of the best nutrient-dense drinks around — especially for those with a busy, on-the-go lifestyle.

Read More Show Less
Eucador's Waorani indigenous people celebrated a court ruling against oil extraction on their ancestral lands.

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Alarming headlines regarding the climate crisis often overshadow positive actions taken by citizens around the world, but that doesn't mean they're not happening.

They are, and sometimes with considerable success. DW looks at some civil society victories.

Read More Show Less