DATE: August 2, 2018
SNIP: Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in America, and the majority of it comes from cars and small trucks. That’s a major reason why President Barack Obama, in 2012, introduced a rule requiring automobile manufacturers to make their vehicles more fuel efficient—from 37 miles per gallon to more than 51 miles by the year 2025. As a side benefit, drivers would save money on gas and America’s oil reserves would last longer, reducing the incentive for energy companies to extract more of it.
But now President Donald Trump wants to “Make Cars Great Again”—by letting them remain as dirty as they are now.
The Trump administration’s plan to halt the drive for more efficient U.S. passenger vehicles will downshift the nation’s ambitions on climate change at the same time that it triggers an epic battle with California, the leader on clean cars.
The administration is casting its proposal, issued on Aug. 2, as neutral on climate and even beneficial from a safety standpoint.
But the costs will be enormous, according to those who favor stricter regulations. It’s not just that consumers will have to pay the price at the pump, they say—everyone will have to pay for the health and ecological costs of air pollution and global warming. Every new gas-guzzler sold will lock in some of those costs for years to come.
The rule would freeze emissions and efficiency standards at 2020 levels, or the equivalent of 43.7 miles per gallon for passenger cars and 31.3 mpg for SUVs and other light trucks. That would end the steady improvement toward 54 mpg, a goal that the lame duck Obama administration called technically feasible, effective and beneficial to the public.
In the United States, transportation has surpassed electric power as the most important driver of emissions. The science dictates that net global emissions from energy must decline to zero in the next few decades to avoid the worst risks of climate change.
That simply can’t happen in the United States without rapid cuts in tailpipe emissions.
The New York-based research firm Rhodium Group projects that the impact of the auto standards freeze will begin slowly but build substantially over time. By 2025, the increase in annual emissions will range from 16 million to 37 million metric tons, ballooning to 32 million to 114 million metric tons by 2035.
“The reality is that they are make global warming substantially worse by rolling back the biggest single step any nation has taken to curb global warming,” said Daniel Becker, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Safe Climate Campaign.
The governor of California, Jerry Brown, said his state was prepared to fight. “For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere,” he said.
“The administration’s effort to roll back these standards is a denial of basic science and a denial of American automakers’ engineering capabilities and ingenuity,” said John DeCicco, an expert on transportation technology at the University of Michigan.