After Five Years of Cleaner Cars, EPA Must Tighten Standards

Workers at Ford Motor Company
Credit: Department of Energy,

A happy anniversary is coming up: This Sunday, October 15, will mark five years since the latest clean car and fuel economy standards were adopted. Since then, carbon pollution from new cars has been reduced by 195 million metric tons and drivers have saved more than $42 billion at the gas pump. And hundreds of thousands of new American jobs making and selling cleaner, fuel-efficient vehicles have been created. Simply put, the standards are working.

Unfortunately, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to block future progress and sacrifice the safeguards we need to ensure clean air. At the automakers' urging, Pruitt wants to roll back these successful clean car standards.

What EPA should be doing is celebrating and building on this praiseworthy success by working to set strong standards for the future (beyond 2025) to protect us and the planet, and push the car companies to keep innovating and creating clean-energy jobs.

The auto industry has made significant progress in building clean, fuel-efficient vehicles. Here’s some encouraging evidence:

  • Carbon pollution from new cars is down by about 24 percent on average in the last ten years. At the same time, vehicles' average fuel economy has improved by five miles per gallon, or about 24 percent. That means a typical driver could be saving $350 per year in fuel costs if gasoline is $2.50 a gallon.
  • Job creation by the auto industry has exploded, with more than 700,000 new workers hired since the 2009 recession. Today, more than 288,000 jobs are focused on building the technologies that make vehicles cleaner and more fuel-efficient.
  • Advanced vehicle technologies are being broadly adopted in new vehicles. For example:
    • About half of new vehicles now feature compact gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines—often turbo-charged—that limit fuel use but preserve power, up from less than 5 percent in 2008.
    • Transmissions with six, seven or eight speeds—along with continuously variable transmissions—have surpassed once-common and less efficient four- and five-speed versions. 
    • New vehicle models incorporating advanced, lightweight metals weigh hundreds of pounds less than their predecessors, as seen in the Ford F-150 and the Chevy Malibu.
    • Today car buyers can choose from among an astounding 30 models of plug-in hybrid and full electric vehicles, compared with just two in 2010.

With these benefits, it’s not surprising Americans overwhelmingly support fuel efficiency standards.

The standards harness American ingenuity at its best, showing that we can boost our economy and clean our environment at the same time.  The Trump administration should embrace this reality by keeping today’s standards strong and raising the bar for the future. Imagine the strides we could be celebrating at the 10-year mark if the Trump administration chooses wisely now!