Public Hearings Show Broad Opposition to Clean Cars Rollback

Hearings this week on the Trump administration's proposal to roll back clean car and fuel economy standards demonstrate the public and experts oppose this dangerous plan.
Rolling back clean car and fuel economy standards means more gasoline fill-ups
Credit: NRDC/Tonachel

The Trump administration is moving to gut pollution and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, and this week a broad collection of physicians, labor representatives, innovative business owners, environmental advocates and mothers and grandmothers stepped up to urge them to drop this terrible idea. At public hearings in Fresno, California and Dearborn, Michigan this week, the public has expressed overwhelming opposition to the proposal from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and EPA. 

It’s not hard to see why. Dialing back those standards would mean:

  • fewer innovative jobs making more-efficient vehicle parts and their materials;
  • more smog, soot and carbon pollution and the accompanying harm to our health;
  • a bigger hit to drivers filling up at the pump.

The proposal will stop future progress just at the time that we should be accelerating efforts to reduce pollution from transportation, which is the nation’s top emitter. Americans’ health will suffer under the proposal as global warming fueled by our cars and truck emissions will lead to more extreme weather days that produce smog and particulate matter that cause asthma and premature deaths.

But President Trump is proposing to throw out the standards and install a policy that would halt any mileage gains. Even the major automakers oppose Trump’s plan, although they had asked for some changes to the standards.

Halting progress will mean 60,000 fewer jobs, according to the agencies’ own analysis.

This would hit especially hard in Michigan, which is an automotive job leader under the existing clean car standards. Today, Michigan is home to 69,593 jobs in 224 facilities that make materials or components for cleaner running, more fuel efficient cars.

The number of lost jobs is almost certainly much higher than 60,000. The agencies ignore the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be created under the existing standards from fuel‐saving innovations that put money in consumers’ wallets and then gets pumped into Michigan and other state and local economies.

The agencies admit this plan will mean more carbon pollution that drives climate change and causes more extreme weather and unhealthy air days.

Americans’ health will suffer as global warming fueled by our cars and truck emissions will lead to more bad air days filled with smog and particulate matter that cause asthma, heart disease—even dementia.

In fact, the DOT’s own Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) concluded: “The Proposed Action and alternatives are projected to result in an increase in energy consumption, an increase in most criteria pollutant emissions…(O)verall U.S. health impacts associated with air quality (mortality, asthma, bronchitis, emergency room visits, and work-loss days) are anticipated to increase across the Proposed Action…”

(The “Proposed Action” is the Trump administration’s rollback proposal.)

Even with that acknowledgement, there are shortcomings in their environmental review, as my colleague David Pettit highlighted at the Fresno hearing on Monday.

As one glaring shortcoming of the DEIS, he noted: “The alternatives analysis looks only at reductions in the CAFE standards, not increases. None of these alternatives increases fuel economy with respect to the no action alternative, none conserves energy, and none represents maximum feasible CAFE standards. These are fundamental errors.”

“The DEIS is fundamentally flawed and needs to be withdrawn,” he said.  

This move would cost drivers more at the pump.

If this terrible plan is adopted, an additional 73 billion gallons of gasoline will be consumed by the vehicles directly regulated under the proposal. That would mean an additional $170 billion dollars would go from hard‐working Americans’ pockets to Big Oil. It’s not hard to see why the oil industry supports this policy; or how their gain would be drivers’ loss.

Meanwhile, the administration’s bogus argument that halting the pollution and mileage standards would save lives by reducing highway deaths was undercut by the EPA’s own analysts, which showed the flaws in its assumptions. So, this is a bad deal all around.

It’s clear that the Trump administration’s plan is bad for drivers, bad for workers and bad for all of us who need to breathe. For the sake of our health and that of our children, it’s imperative that the administration drop this misguided effort and let automakers innovate. America has always embraced technical progress as a way to address our problems. The Trump administration has given us no good reason we should abandon that approach now.

As I said in my Dearborn testimony, we Americans pay taxes so that the government will serve and protect us, not Big Oil.