Trump Is Stuck in Reverse on Clean Cars

No big change in Trump-ville when it comes to increasing pollution and making us all pay more for gas at the pump. Recent reports of some tweaks to Trump’s rollback of clean car standards show that this administration is still on the road to nowhere.

Last year, the Trump administration proposed to roll back clean car and fuel economy standards by freezing them at 2020 levels through 2026, instead of following existing standards requiring new vehicle fuel efficiency to increase at about 5 percent per year. The White House is apparently looking at 1.5 percent per year improvements. So, is that “backing off” a radical repeal of commonsense standards, as some have reported? Absolutely not.

This administration is still driving in the wrong direction. Its “new” plan would still mean automotive job losses, billions more in drivers’ costs at the pump, more toxic air pollution—and no real progress on curtailing the largest source of carbon pollution.

Under the existing standards, new vehicles in 2025 would average about 37 miles per gallon in real-world driving. At 1.5 percent per year improvement rate, that average would drop to roughly 32 miles per gallon. Instead of a 27 percent improvement from today’s vehicles in fuel efficiency increases and emissions reductions, the slower rate would only deliver a 7 percent improvement.

According to Consumer Reports, new car owners will end up spending $3,200 more to fuel up if the standards are gutted in this way.

Even the Trump administration’s own analysis shows that 1.5 percent scenario is not much better than a freeze. Below are the results from the EPA and NHTSA proposal. While the 1.5 percent scenario was not analyzed directly, Alternative 4 can be used to approximate it (although 1.5 percent impacts are likely even worse if trucks make up more than half of sales).

Under the 1.5 percent scenario, we can expect to experience hundreds of billions of tons more of climate pollution at time when we should be accelerating reductions. Auto workers will suffer and so will all drivers.

That’s why we will continue to fight this senseless rollback with all prudent means. We’ve traditionally been able to rely on the leadership of states to propel us forward in cleaner vehicles, but Trump wants to stop them too. We are suing the Trump administration to protect states’ authority to adopt better standards, and we expect to prevail in court. If the federal government proceeds with the standards rollback, we’ll see them in court over that, too.