Senator Inhofe Sides with Oil Industry against Cleaner, More Efficient Vehicles

Senator Inhofe recently attacked new proposed standards that would nearly double new automobile fuel economy and cut dangerous emissions of carbon pollution from those vehicles in half by 2025. The Senator claims to be concerned about increased particulate matter pollution, which the rules would actually decrease, but his attacks are a thinly veiled show of support for powerful oil and gas lobbyists. 

If the Senator truly cared about protecting public health and cutting fuel bills, then he should be a strong supporter of the proposed carbon pollution and fuel efficiency standards, as well as call upon EPA to propose stricter pollution regulations to clean our fuel supply.

Senator Inhofe sent a letter to EPA Administrator Jackson questioning recent standards proposed jointly by EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that reach the equivalent of 54.5 mpg by 2025.  

The standards have very broad support from automakers, health groups, environmentalists, consumer groups, small businesses and security hawks. The standards will give consumers more choices of vehicles that sip instead of guzzle gas.  New vehicles in 2025 will cost about $2000 more but save more than $6000 in fuel. EPA and NHTSA estimate that consumers will see net savings of about $4,400 over the life of their vehicles. By trying to disrupt the finalization of the new standards, Senator Inhofe is robbing consumers of these savings.

Instead the Senator is trying to protect the revenues of the oil industry. The strong standards will cut U.S. oil consumption by 3.3 million barrels per day by 2030 and $100 billion would be available annually to inject into the U.S. economy for clean energy and jobs instead of for oil.

The 2017-2025 automobile standards will also have huge emissions benefits, cutting carbon pollution that leads to global warming by over 300 million metric tons per year. That’s of little concern to the Senator, however, because he continues to hang on to his discredited notion that global warming is a "hoax". As a side benefit, carbon pollution and fuel efficiency standards will also result in net reductions in particulate matter mainly because of the reduction in gasoline production and distribution.

Senator Inhofe claims to want to protect the health of Americans, yet he also questions EPA’s work on the next round, or “Tier 3”, of regulations that are specifically designed to cut automobile tailpipe emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides that produce soot and smog. Again, the auto industry supports the new regulations. But the Senator again attacks clean air requirements by parrotting a false oil industry claim that gas prices would jump by up to 25 cents per gallon under Tier 3. As my colleague Rich Kassel points, the likely cost is about one penny per gallon and the result would be huge benefits in reduced risk of asthma attacks, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease, and premature deaths. If Senator Inhofe wants to be considered a health champion, it only makes sense that he would vigorously support rules to clean fuel supplies and cut automobile pollution.

Senator Inhofe not only sides with oil industry but also carries the water for natural gas companies. He claims that EPA should increase incentives for natural gas vehicles under the carbon pollution rules. Appropriately, EPA has elected not to do so and instead proposed credits for natural gas vehicles in accordance with their actual carbon pollution reduction. Natural gas vehicles can already help auto companies meet the rules if they can demonstrate the emissions reduction. Additionally, the companies know how to make natural gas vehicles, such as Honda’s Civic Natural Gas, which have been sold for many years and are mature technologies. They should not be eligible for additional incentives under the Clean Air Act just to help the bottom line of natural gas producers.

Senator Inhofe’s attack on the EPA and NHTSA automobile rules makes it clear that he stands with oil and gas industries instead of the public. Especially in times of high and volatile gas prices and increasingly polluted air, his views are confounding. He needs to make a U-turn and become a champion for energy security, the environment and public health by supporting the vehicle standards.