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Trump's war on fuel economy standards will cost Americans $450 billion says Energy Innovation. If nothing else. it will keep flotillas of lawyers busy for years while car companies flounder in a sea of uncertainty.

Air Quality

How Much Will Trump’s Freeze On Fuel Economy Cost Americans? $450 Billion!

Trump’s war on fuel economy standards will cost Americans $450 billion says Energy Innovation. If nothing else. it will keep flotillas of lawyers busy for years while car companies flounder in a sea of uncertainty.

It’s official. The Trump maladministration has decided to take a sledgehammer to the current fuel economy rules and apply a wrecking ball to the waiver contained in the Clean Air Act that allows California to set more rigorous clean air targets than the rest of the country. The deep thinkers in Assington DC are crowing about how the move will lower the price of new cars so more people will be able to trade up to newer cars that are safer, thus saving lives.

Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

The War On Regulation Runs Amok

Balderdash. The same folks who have been pushing for a roll back of the Obama-era fuel economy standards — the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — have been complaining bitterly about vehicle safety standards and how they have driven increases in the cost of building automobiles since the 1950s. If they had their way, there would be no federal safety standards and we would all be driving cars with the crashworthiness of a 1958 Edsel — no seat belts, no crumple zones, no rollover protection, no side impact beams, and no air bags.

But now, because it serves their purpose for the moment, they use the fact that modern cars are safer than older cars to justify building vehicles that spew more pollutants into the air than necessary. Today’s cars wouldn’t be safer if the members of the AAM had their way. It doesn’t get more hypocritical than that, folks.

The people at Energy Innovation in San Francisco, reached out to CleanTechnica to share the results of their research into how much this latest Trump initiative will cost Americans. Using its proprietary Energy Policy Simulator, it concluded the cost will be as much as $450 billion by the year 2050 if the fuel economy freeze becomes law and the EPA waiver is eliminated.

The Energy Policy Simulator is an “open-source and peer reviewed computer model that uses non-partisan, public data from respected government sources such as the U.S. Energy Information Administration to predict the effects of policy changes on pollution, financial costs and savings, premature deaths, vehicle deployment and fleet turnover, and more,” according to Energy Innovation.

In a blog post for the Union of Concerned Scientists, senior analyst Dave Cooke writes

  • Rolling back these standards will result in an additional 2.2 billion metric tons of global warming emissions by 2040 — that’s 170 million metric tons in 2040 alone, equivalent to keeping 43 coal-fired power plants online.
  • These inefficient cars and trucks will use an additional 200 billion gallons of gasoline by 2040 — that’s as much oil as we’ve imported from the Persian Gulf since the standards were first finalized in 2010.
  • This will cost consumers hundreds of billions of dollars — in 2040 alone, consumers will spend an additional $55 billion at the pump if these standards are rolled back.
UCS fuel economy freeze

Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

Cooke adds, “Electrification of transportation is a key component of many state plans to meet air quality requirements. Attacking state leadership on cleaner vehicles is a direct attack on public health, particularly that of the most vulnerable communities. The only clear winners of this rollback would be the oil companies — with consumers forking over more of their hard-earned money for every fill-up.”

Two Faced Republican Eunuchs

Vox has slammed the hypocrisy of Republicans who support Trump and his unhinged desire to stomp around and break things. The man is like a distillation of the worst qualities of Travis Kalanick and Mark Zuckerberg. It points out the new policy flies in the face of one of the Republican party’s most cherished beliefs — federalism. In the conservative view, the powers of the federal government are limited by the Constitution and any not specifically granted to it by that document are reserved to the states.

Except when federalism is inconvenient, as in this case. Then Republicans run away from their so-called “principles” as fast as they can. The only ones who are willing to take a stand against the insanity spewing forth from the Oval Office are the ones who can’t tolerate it any more and have decided to quit politics rather than participate in the twisted kind of democracy promoted by Trump and his acolytes.

“When states want to pollute more, the Trump administration argues for the need for flexibility,” says Vox. “If, as in California’s case, they want to pollute less, well, it’s time for a little federal discipline. So the administration is setting out to shut down California’s pioneering fuel economy standards, one of the most successful and longstanding examples of federalism in national policy.”

[For a detailed discussion about the legal ramifications of the new EPA policy, please see the analysis provided by Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at the UCLA School of Law.]

The other basic, bedrock conservative principle that is being ignored for the sake of political expediency is certainty. Republicans thump their chests all the time about how business needs a stable, predictable regulatory environment in order to prosper. But this latest assault by the executive — which may be partially fueled by the administration’s anger at California because it refuses to kowtow to ICE — is absolutely guaranteed to lead to years of bitter and intractable litigation.

During that time, the automobile industry will have zero regulatory stability, as in none. Will it build electric cars for California and pickup trucks for Peoria? Will it build two versions of every model, one for California and the dozen other states that follow the California’s emissions rules and another for the rest of the country? One thing that seems crystal clear is all this uncertainty will cost the car companies money and reduce their profits. Nice going, folks. You must be very proud of yourselves. Talk about being hoist on your own petard.

With their constant sucking up to the Trump administration to undo what they themselves agreed to do when they needed Uncle Sugar to bail them out, the automakers have created an impossible situation in which no one is happy. Illustrating once again the wisdom of the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” While China, Japan, and Europe lead the world into the new low transportation emissions future, the US auto industry will be floundering around and wondering where all its customers went.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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