Issa's Investigation of Clean Car Agreement Hits Dead End

Last Wednesday, I testified in front of the House Oversight Committee on Regulatory Affairs. It was political theater by Chairman Issa at its worst. He came in too late to hear my testimony and then took a puzzling, direct swipe at NRDC.

The members of the committee from the House majority attempted to show consumers don’t want fuel-efficient vehicles, the technology to meet 54.5 mpg is too expensive, and the process was broken.  But on every point, the House majority subcommittee members were frustrated in their attempts to make any headway. It’s time that Congress get on with the business of solving our environmental, energy and economic problems , and get out of the way of real solutions like the latest clean car agreement.

Fuel efficiency one of the most “important factors” for consumer, according to… Edmunds

The House majority committee members brought in Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of , apparently to represent the voice of the consumer. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Anwyl’s testimony:

Any study of actual sales makes clear that—for the vast majority of consumers—fuel economy is simply not their primary motivating factor when purchasing a vehicle. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about fuel economy—just that other things are far more important.

But here’s a New York Times newspaper article that cites Mr. Anwyl just two days later:

Fuel economy is among the chief considerations for consumers looking for a new vehicle, according to the automobile research Web site

“It’s one of the most important factors that people consider when buying a new car,” said Jeremy Anwyl, the chief executive of Edmunds.

As my testimony shows, based on actual sales data, there is really no plausible case to be made that the majority of customers don’t highly value fuel efficiency. As I point out in my testimony:

Where once truck-based SUVs and V-8s ruled the road, now one out of every two vehicles sold today is a small car, small crossover, or mid-sized car. And thrifty 4 cylinder engines are now America’s most popular engine choice. 

Mr. Anwyl states in his written testimony “vehicles consumers have demonstrated a marked preference for larger vehicles…”, but neglects to mention that these “larger vehicles” are actually highly fuel-efficient crossover utility vehicles, not truck-based, gas-guzzling traditional SUVs. The recent uptick in relatively fuel-inefficient pickup truck sales? According to Auto Observer, this increase market share appears “was bought largely with increased incentives.”

Of course, if the House majority subcommittee members wanted consumers’ perspectives represented, rather than auto dealers, then they could have easily invited the highly respected Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of the popular Consumer Reports, or the Consumer Federation of America, a non-profit association of 300 consumer groups across the country. Of course, these two actual consumer groups support the new clean car agreement so their perspective didn’t fit with the tenuous case the House majority subcommittee members wanted to make.

What do the House majority subcommittee members have against getting off of oil and creating jobs?

Electrifying transportation is one of our best options to finally break our oil dependency and is critical to the future competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry. For better or worse, electric vehicles like the GM Volt are not needed to meet the 54.5 mpg standards. Ample technologies to improve gasoline-powered cars exist to meet the standard without relying on  battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

So why did Republicans on the committee spend so much time attacking the GM plug-in electric vehicle, the Volt? Their claim seemed to boil to the cost being too high and demand too low. But the GM Volt has been on the market less than a year and is the first of a new breed of cutting edge of technology. It appears some in Congress are willing to attack a made-in-America product just to try to score some political points.

The benefits are overwhelming, including and especially for drivers and job creation. Drivers will have more money in their pockets immediately in the form of lower monthly vehicle and fuel payments. By 2030, net fuel savings, after considering the additional fuel-efficiency technology costs, will be equivalent to $330 tax rebate for every American household. This higher level of investment in the U.S. economy and reduced fuel bills will result in roughly half a million more jobs by 2030.

 As I said in my testimony, in view of its overwhelming benefits and overwhelming support, if anything, Congress should be urging the agencies to implement this important program sooner rather than later.  This week’s hearing makes it clear that Chairman Issa attempt to throw up a roadblock to the latest clean car agreement has finally hit a dead end.