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Energy Innovation Report Claims Fuel Economy Rollback Will Cost Americans Big Bucks

Energy Innovation argues in a new report that American drivers could pay as much as $400 billion more for gasoline over the next 30 years under the administration’s proposed rollback of fuel economy rules.

The federal government is committed to blowing up the deal made by the previous administration with automakers, the one that calls for more stringent fuel economy and exhaust emissions standards going forward. The current administration insists those rules will make new cars so expensive ordinary people will no longer be able to afford them.

The argument seems to be, “Let manufacturers build whatever they want so they can make vehicles as cheaply as possible and reap enormous profits as a result.” If they happen to highly polluting gas hogs, who cares? It’s a new, modern, updated version of Engine Charlie Wilson’s famous statement to Congress in the 50s that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” Let the ice caps melt, the seas rise, wildfires rage, and drought prevail across the face of the Earth just so long as Detroit can continue cranking out its highly profitable light duty pickup trucks and SUVs.

Energy Innovation has studied the financial and environmental impacts of the rollback and concluded in a new report that the administration’s plan will cost consumers billions while adding significantly to carbon emissions at a time when it is imperative to drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.

In an e-mail to CleanTechnica, policy analyst Megan Mahajan, one of the authors of the report, says,

“Although the current administration argues the standards freeze is in Americans’ best interest, we find that it hurts consumers and the climate. Our results show that the economic impacts to consumers will only grow over time as they continue to lose out on the significant fuel savings that come with stronger standards – ballooning up to $400 billion by 2050.

“That’s in addition to job losses, which the Trump administration itself has previously estimated at 60,000. And the freeze will increase greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by up to 10%, even though scientists tell us we need to get on a path to carbon neutrality in a decade. Freezing fuel standards is only in the best interest of Big Oil.”

And that’s the point. This administration is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the oil and gas industry. It has no interest in protecting the people of the United States. Its only goal is shilling for the fossil fuel industry so the industry will continue making generous campaign donations to captive politicians. The payoff for the oil and gas companies is huge. A paltry few million dollars distributed to the right hands can result in billions of dollars in new profits. Who wouldn’t make that investment?

The only problem is, it sells the people of the United States down the river for money. You might think that would be illegal, but in the alternate universe constructed by Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues on the US Supreme Court, the Constitution virtually compels such forms of bribery because free speech for corporations must be preserved at all costs. In a government where ethics and morality are utterly lacking, kicking the populace to the curb is perfectly OK, so long as those campaign contributions continue rolling in.

The Energy Innovation report indicates that assuming the government’s argument that new car prices will be lower, the impact when spread over the term of a new car loan will be insignificant in terms of the monthly payment. But the amount of extra money drivers will spend to buy gas for those cars could be as much as $400 billion between now and 2050. That’s $400 billion that will flow directly into the corporate coffers of the oil companies over that period of time.

cost of fuel economy rollback

The Trump maladministration claims the fuel economy rollback will give a boost to the auto industry. Not so, say the UAW and the car companies. What they are worried about is not so much the rollback itself but the push by the administration to eliminate the authority granted California by Section 177 of the Clean Air Act to set higher emissions standards than those required by federal law.

The union and the automakers believe revoking that authority will lead to a ground swell of litigation and will promote uncertainty in the marketplace. The companies may find themselves in the position of having to build two different types of cars — one for the part of the country and another for California and the 14 states which have adopted the California regulatory framework. Together, those states make up almost 40% of the US new car market. [One CleanTechnica reader made the cogent observation recently that the companies are always free to build to the higher standard if they choose to. Some people may actually prefer spending less money for gasoline.]

Which explains why the companies have been open to striking their own deals with California and Colorado. They would rather get on with the business of making and selling cars than spend time and money on litigation that could stretch out for years.

Canada has indicated that if forced to choose between the California and federal standards, it will throw in with California. Energy Innovations says using the lower standards would cost Canadian drivers up to $67 billion in higher fuel costs between now and 2050. Burning more gasoline means more carbon dioxide emissions, making it harder for Canada to meet its own carbon reduction goals.

The Takeaway

The current administration is laying bare its deep commitment to the fossil fuel industry at the expense of its own citizens. Its proposed fuel economy rollback is opposed by 23 states, the UAW, and the automakers. So who benefits? Oil companies and no one else. Keep that in mind the next time you cast your vote in a national election. Would you prefer a candidate who has your best interests at heart or one who has sold out in advance to the oil and gas companies?


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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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