If you have been watching the impeachment hearings, you know Republicans are experts at floating all sorts of outrageous theories to protect their lying, cheating, loathsome, egomaniac president from getting kicked to the curb like he deserves. Absurd notions permeate everything they do. Take the current flap of fuel economy standards.
The rationale that professional jackasses like EPA head Andrew Wheeler and DOT head Elaine Chao put forth for rolling back those standards is that it costs automakers more money to make more efficient engines. Those costs are passed along to consumers in the form of higher sticker prices. Higher prices mean fewer people can afford new cars, so they buy older cars instead. Older cars by definition were not built to the highest safety and crash test standards so that means more people will be injured or killed in traffic accidents and it’s all the fault of higher fuel economy standards!
[Vehicle prices are not rising as a result of everyone and their cousin wanting the latest and greatest computer technology in the automobiles according to the Trumpies. Every penny in higher sticker prices is accounted for solely by the need to build more fuel efficient cars. That claim is preposterous on its face but so is just about everything else that comes out of a Republican’s mouth these days.]
If that sounds like a truckload of horse puckey to you, you’re right. We all know the real reason for the rollback is an hysterical need for President Quid Pro Quo to undo anything and everything Barack Obama ever did while in office and to punish California for daring to oppose this maladministration’s hateful immigration policies. All this palaver about safety is just a smokescreen so the government can argue in court that there is a rational basis for its rollback decision — something required by the Administrative Procedures Act which has been around for 7 decades to protect against government actions that are arbitrary and capricious.
Last year, Energy Innovation did an analysis of the economic harm the rollback of fuel economy standards and the revocation of California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act will do. Even though the study was published in July of 2018, it is still relevant today as California plus 22 other states and companies like Tesla and Rivian head to court to block the government’s actions.
Energy Innovation modeled the impact of the proposed changes. The analysis found that between now and 2050, the Trump freeze will cost Americans $457 billion and lead to an 11% rise in tailpipe emissions by 2035. In the first few years, there would be a small financial boost because less efficient cars are cheaper to build. But as consumers spend more on gas, the costs would start to balloon. By 2040, the cost would be equivalent to a 57 cent per gallon gas tax.
One possible result of the rollback could be a bifurcated new car market in the US. Automakers would build cars to meet two different standards (although some CleanTechnica readers have pointed out correctly that there is no law preventing manufacturers to meet the highest standards if they choose to) — one for California and the 22 other states that follow its emissions regulations and another for the rest of the country.
“Everyone loses at the end,” says Simon Mui, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council tells Fast Company. “From a consumer angle, from an environmental angle, from an industry angle, there’s just no great logic [for this proposal] outside of the administration really catering to extremist viewpoints. It’s unfortunate that one of the key drivers for all of this seems to really just be this idea that somebody doesn’t like regulations and therefore all regulation is bad, even ones that are actually very much helping the economy.” The very definition of “arbitrary and capricious,” in other words.
Building to a lower standard also risks making American cars irrelevant in world markets. “The auto industry, longer-term, is going to be having China breathing down their neck with their auto industry having more fuel efficient products and that global market now exceeding the U.S. market,” says Mui.
The Trump maladministration is nothing more than a subsidiary of the the fossil fuel industry and these actions only serve to illustrate how much of an industry shill it has become. When Little Donnie said he wanted to drain the swamp, many of us thought he meant getting rid of the lobbyists and influence peddlers in Washington. Only now do we see that the people he loathes are government functionaries — the career civil service people who devote their lives and careers to serving the needs of the American public.
Under Trump, the entire government infrastructure would be dismantled in an attempt to free industry from any rules and regulations whatsoever. The Reagan era mantra “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” has metastasized into a full frontal assault on bureaucrats and government scientists in an attempt to create a free wheeling corporate culture unburdened by any restrictions whatsoever, just as Charles Koch has been advocating for since 1970.
The larger issue is that such an unfettered business culture will leave fossil fuel companies free to extract and burn every last molecule of coal, oil, or gas they can find. And that will inevitably push the Earth over the edge into an abyss where most living things — particularly humans — will perish. And Donald J. Trump will be fine with that just so long as his picture is on humanity’s gravestone.