Trump's Rollback of Fuel Economy Standards Could Cost Americans $460 Billion: Consumer Reports
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.
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formally announced the administration's plan to amend Obama-era vehicle standards for model years 2021 through 2026.
Described by critics as "a disastrous wreck for consumers and the planet," the so-called Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule would freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for automakers at 2020 levels. As Common Dreams reported last week, "the Trump administration's new proposal would also revoke the power of states — most prominently California — to establish their own more stringent fuel efficiency rules."
"The facts don't back this rule's Orwellian name," David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "The evidence shows that lowering fuel economy and emissions standards won't do anything to improve traffic safety, but it will leave Americans stuck with the bill."
"Instead of making a data-driven decision, the agencies instead seem to have been given a predetermined outcome and tried to make the numbers back it," said Friedman. "They don't."
The Consumer Reports study — titled The Un-SAFE Rule: How a Fuel Economy Rollback Costs Americans Billions in Fuel Savings and Does Not Improve Safety — concludes that the administration's rollback would have sweeping negative consequences.
The group outlines those consequences in a summary for policymakers, detailing how the plan "would result in significant setbacks compared to the current standard in three major categories: (1) increased overall oil consumption and fuel costs for consumers, (2) higher vehicle ownership costs (net present value) for consumers, especially SUV and pickup truck owners, and (3) lower auto sales for automakers and dealers. Further, a rollback could harm, but certainly would not improve, highway safety, contrary to the misleading 'SAFE Rule' title used for the proposal."
A chart from the summary document details the anticipated impacts of four rollback scenarios as well as a plan to strengthen fuel economy standards:
"Whether it's a complete freeze or a partial rollback, weakening Clean Cars standards costs Americans money and increases pollution," said study co-author Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and energy policy at Consumer Reports.
"The last thing the federal government should be doing is burdening consumers with more costs, while thwarting progress in the development of cleaner cars," she said.
In terms of the planetary impact, the group's researchers found that "the rollback would increase oil consumption by 320 billion gallons, the equivalent to 20 percent of the country's proven oil reserves," and "increase greenhouse gas emissions by nearly three gigatonnes of CO2, equivalent to almost two years of current emissions from the entire transportation sector."
Under existing federal vehicle standards, consumers are set to save $660 billion — but $460 billion of that savings would be lost over the lifetime of the vehicles if the Trump rollback goes though, according to Consumer Reports. About half of the costs would impact used vehicle buyers and more than 70 percent would fall on light truck drivers.
The summary document further warns that "weakening fuel-economy standards does not improve highway safety and may in fact slightly diminish it," though it acknowledges the projected increase in fatalities is statistically small in terms of annual figures and the rollback's impact on safety "is likely to be difficult to discern from other, more significant factors."
Additionally, Consumer Reports found that the auto industry would be harmed by the rollback, seeing a decrease in sales by more than two million vehicles between model years 2021 and 2035.
Outlining how the industry has responded to the Trump administration's recent moves, Bloomberg reported:
Carmakers have pleaded with administration officials to restart negotiations with California over the standards, arguing the changes could lead to years of uncertainty and a split market, with federal mileage requirements governing most states and California-backed rules applying in states that account for more than a third of U.S. auto sales.
Four major automakers last month said they had reached a compromise with California to voluntarily boost fuel efficiency, a move seen aimed at pressuring the administration to shift course.
Another analysis on the Trump administration's proposed rollback, released Wednesday by the environmental policy group Energy Innovation, found that the plan "would damage the U.S.economy, costing up to $400 billion (real 2018 U.S. dollars, discounted at three percent annually) through 2050 and increasing transportation emissions by up to 10 percent in the year of maximum impact."
With the administration's proposal, the Energy Innovation report concluded, "the only winners are the oil companies, who stand to sell more gasoline at the expense of American consumers, manufacturers, and the environment."
4 Automakers Strike Emissions Deal With California, Steering Clear From Trump's Pro-Pollution Agenda https://t.co/NzX9pmmUa1— The Progressive (@1Progressivism) July 28, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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Growing Contribution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NDY5Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjM4MTgyM30.IuQTKQs1stvYYKD6vaVTrqAyoBsUG0BhDvlhxsyKwPA/img.png?width=980" id="02a05" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2841f82b1785df5d5ed7bf64d3bb882b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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