The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis from the nonprofit advocacy group Consumer Reports warns that American drivers could lose about $460 billion dollars in fuel savings if the Trump administration implements its proposal to gut federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks.
Governors from 24 states, including two republicans and four states won by Trump in 2016, are standing together to ask President Trump to put the brakes on his plan to weaken the federal clean car rules, the New York Times reported.
- Top Clean Cars for 2019 and 2020 - EcoWatch ›
- 17 of World's Largest Car Makers Ask Trump for Compromise on ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Thousands of Americans are speaking up to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the bar and set a higher standard for cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars in the U.S. Will you join them?
Before 2007, U.S. fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles hadn't changed all that much for more than two decades.
Because these standards play a big part in pushing automakers to innovate and make their vehicles more efficient, the net effect was that even as technology was improving by leaps and bounds, the average car rolling off the lot in 2005 still got pretty much the same miles per gallon (mpg) as the average car in 1975.
During that time, Americans also started driving more and buying more gas-guzzling SUVs, which meant a lot more carbon pollution going into the atmosphere, driving climate change.
A lot of good has been done in the more than a decade since, but we now have an opportunity to make things even better.
Until Sept. 26, Americans have the chance to speak up and demand stronger fuel economy standards, ensuring the cars of tomorrow are cleaner, greener and more efficient than ever.
Before we explain what you can do to show your continued support for solving the climate crisis, let's take a quick look at how we got here.
It all starts in 2007, when Congress passed a bill raising fuel economy standards for cars, light trucks and SUVs to an average of 35 mpg by 2020. The bill directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to come up with the details on achieving that standard.
In 2009, the Obama administration stepped up the game—the U.S. EPA and the NHTSA established an aggressive national program for fuel economy standards in two phases. Phase I covered 2012-2016, at which point new cars had to meet a standard of 34.1 mpg and Phase II covers 2017-2025 and advances the standard to 54.5 mpg. And due to a court case and agency findings, the EPA was also empowered to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
Since these new standards cover a time period twice as long as Phase I, the EPA made a commitment to conduct a midterm review to determine whether the standards should be strengthened, maintained or weakened for car model years 2022-2025.
As part of the review, the EPA is asking Americans to have their say on this next generation of fuel economy standards.
Here are four important things to know about the standards under review:
1. High Fuel Efficiency Standards Save You Money at the Pump
Transportation is the second-highest expense for most American households—right after housing itself. These stronger standards are projected to save Americans $1.7 trillion in fuel costs by 2025. It's no secret why: with cars using less gas, Americans will buy less gas to get around.
Talking about these savings in such a large-scale way might seem abstract. Americans overall will save a tremendous amount of cash and you might think, "That's great and all, but what does it mean for my family, specifically?"
Well, broken down, the stronger standards are projected to save families who buy a car in 2025 an estimated $8,200 over the lifetime of each new vehicle, relative to the model year 2010 standard. Just imagine what you'd do with the extra cash.
2. Americans Want More Fuel-Efficient Cars—and They Want the Government to Play a Role
A 2016 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 84 percent of Americans believe car makers should keep improving the efficiency of their vehicles. What's more, 70 percent believe the government should keep raising the bar with higher fuel economy standards.
More than half of Americans now expect their next car to be even more efficient than their current ride.
The benefits of improved fuel efficiency standards for the planet and bank accounts across the country are so apparent that just about everyone wants to continue down the right path—and we want the government to make sure we do.
3. Cleaner Cars Reduce Carbon Pollution and Save Lives
Stronger fuel efficiency standards on vehicles through model year 2025 will prevent about 6 billion metric tons of carbon pollution from entering our atmosphere. Another way to look at that figure: it's about what the Amazon rainforest absorbs in three years. That's a lot of carbon, people!
From a climate change perspective, this is excellent news. We all know that phasing down carbon emissions is integral to meeting the global temperature increase limits set by the Paris agreement. But it's important to consider the impact these higher standards will have right now in protecting public health by reducing smog and toxic carbon air pollution.
Air pollution is the fourth-leading risk factor for premature death worldwide and, according to the World Bank, it cost the global economy about $225 billion in lost labor income in 2013 (the most recent year for which complete information was available).
And while the efficiency standards we're talking about apply to U.S. vehicles only, it is imperative for us to lead by example to improve human health worldwide. (Of course, we also do not live in a vacuum; our emissions travel the globe, compounding air pollution problems elsewhere.) We're talking about some pretty harmful stuff here. The less of it in the air, the better.
4. Increased Fuel Efficiency Helps Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
Improving from the current 35.5 mpg to 54.5 mpg is projected to save more than 2 million barrels of oil a day. That's more oil than the U.S. imports from any country other than its friendly neighbor to the north, Canada.
The EPA estimates that these savings will only increase as the vehicle fleet continues to turn over, with older vehicles being replaced by newer, more-efficient ones. Looking beyond 2025, if the under-review standards are maintained or (fingers crossed) strengthened, the oil savings could grow to more than 4 million barrels a day. That's almost as much as we import from all OPEC countries—combined.
But here's the thing: We can do even better and we must do better for a safe climate. The improved engines, transmissions and other materials necessary to build even more efficient vehicles than those mandated by the current standards are on-hand in factories around the world. But instead, automakers keep stalling, relying instead on outmoded, less expensive and far less efficient equipment. Which is a shame because the emissions standards program under review "can do more than any current measure to keep greenhouse gas pollution out of the atmosphere," according to a New York Times op-ed.
We've come a long way with fuel economy since 2007, but imagine what we could do if automakers were pressed further to realize the full climate-saving potential of building the most efficient vehicles their current technology allowed?
Together, we can save lives, money on gas and the planet we share from climate change, while reducing our dependence on dirty oil—all by doing something we already want. We think they call this a no-brainer.
Let's make sure the EPA gets the message and demand higher fuel-economy standards. Comments close Sept. 26.
With the help of our supporters, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has long led the fight to break our dangerous oil dependence and address global warming by strengthening fuel efficiency and pollution standards for cars and trucks. We stand on the verge of historic progress with the Obama administration's recently proposed fuel efficiency and global warming emissions standards for vehicles sold between 2017 and 2025. These standards would save consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump, prevent millions of tons of global warming emissions, and save as much oil in 2030 alone as we currently import from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Automakers have the technology to make all new cars, trucks and SUVs cleaner. But just as opportunity knocks, automakers and their allies are working behind the scenes to weaken the standards with loopholes that could increase pollution and oil dependence.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are currently accepting public comments on the proposed standards, and they need to hear from citizens like you, not just industry lobbyists.
Take action today and tell the Obama administration to move forward with strong clean car standards and oppose harmful industry-backed loopholes. The comment period expires on Feb. 13, 2012.
For more information, click here.
Tell President Obama that you support increased fuel efficiency for cars.
This fall, President Obama proposed increased fuel efficiency standards of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for new cars and light trucks. Adopting these standards will save the average consumer up to $6,600 in fuel costs over the life of a model year 2025 vehicle. A 60-day public comment period opened Dec. 1, 2011, and ends Jan. 30, 2012.
The president needs to hear from you.
Without your comment, special interests could water down this proposal. Tell President Obama to keep the standards strong so Americans can save money at the pump, our country can import less oil, and our environment can be cleaner.
Send your comments to the president now—protect the 54.5 average mpg fuel efficiency standard.
For more information, click here.
The Obama administration officially proposed strengthening fuel efficiency and pollution standards Nov. 16 for passenger cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The measure builds on a historic step taken last year to raise vehicle efficiency to 35.5 mpg in 2016 and begin reducing tailpipe carbon pollution levels. The newly proposed standards also reduce carbon emissions to 163 grams per mile in 2025.
These highly anticipated standards would result in significant savings at the pump for American families, reduce climate-threatening carbon pollution and provide Americans with better and more fuel efficient vehicle choices.
In response, Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, released the following statement:
“Today’s proposal is a big win for American families and will prove to be a big boost for our economy. President Obama has secured a decade of progress toward breaking our dangerous addiction to oil, creating American jobs, curbing life-threatening pollution and tackling climate disruption. American families will see much-needed relief at the gas pump as the auto industry moves toward a better, more efficient generation of American cars.
“To put it in perspective, in 2030 these standards will save American families $44 billion at the gas pump, reduce our oil use by 23 billion gallons, and cut carbon pollution by an amount equal to the annual emissions from 72 coal-fired power plants—and that’s all just in one year.
“Fuel efficiency and pollution standards for passenger cars and trucks are just one critical piece of the equation for ending our addiction to oil. This new standard will put American innovation and technology to work to deliver the best cars and trucks for consumers, but we must also ensure smart transportation choices such as transit, biking and walking for all Americans, and build livable cities and communities.
“As the administration moves toward finalizing these standards next summer, it is critical that they avoid loopholes and giveaways for the industry. We look forward to working with President Obama and his administration to ensure that these fuel efficiency and pollution standards deliver the strongest possible benefits to American families and workers through 2025 and beyond.”
Check out the huge benefits that American families will see from these standards.
For more information, click here.