Statement in Response to House Oversight Report on Clean Car Standards

As soon as next week, President Obama is expected to announce the final details of an historic agreement that will raise auto fuel efficiency standard to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. 

Now the few left opposed to these common sense and highly popular rules -- which will save consumers $1.7 trillion at the gas pump, create half a million American jobs and cut our oil imports by one-third – continue to cry foul.

In its report released today, the House Oversight and Investigations Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), alleges that environmental groups such as NRDC and California exerted undue pressure on the Obama Administration.

Not true.

The report “findings” are no surprise to anyone following this issue. The report contains no new information, no new perspectives, and essentially amounts to a list of pre-determined conclusions.

The bottom line is that the process was fair. Hard fought but fair. The level of intensity around this issue highlights the importance of this issue. Doubling fuel efficiency is a big deal. Automakers, as expected, wanted a lower number. Environmental groups wanted a higher number. The final number came in between. That’s the definition of “compromise”.

All in all, the automakers got the single national program they badly wanted (California agreed to not separately enforce its own program as is its four decade old right under the Clean Air Act), a weaker standard than what we called for, laxer treatment for light trucks (which we strenuously opposed), and a midterm review (where they get a chance to make the case to weaken the standard later this decade which we also strongly opposed).

In the end, 13 automakers, the UAW, environmental groups, California, consumer groups, energy security groups, all lent their support to the President’s announcement of the agreement. Later that year, the CEO of GM, Dan Ackerson, publically called the standards a “win for American automakers”. Nobody was twisting his arms. As CEO, his every word is scrutinized. And he called the standard unambiguously a “win” for his industry.

Also to be clear, the study’s characterization that environmental groups and California alone were able to bully the agencies and the entire auto industry into an agreement against their will, is again not consistent with facts. In fact, there was broad stakeholder support, as I said in my testimony last year, “from automakers to environmentalists, Republicans to Democrats, consumer advocates to energy security advocates, business leaders to labor unions.”

Environmental groups do not wield the same level of resources as industry. My guess is that automaker put ten times the amount of resources into the negotiations than non-profits environmental groups could muster.

But what we do have in this David versus Goliath battle is the overwhelming support of the American public. Poll after poll shows strong support in the range of 70 percent for the standards, the most recent poll from last May by Consumer Federation of America.

Rarely do we find this level of agreement in this country on any issue. Rarely do we find this level of industry support for new standards.

The 54.5 mpg agreement is America at its best, different perspectives coming together to support a compromise that keeps our country moving forward.

Lower fuel bills, less dependency on oil, more jobs and a healthier environment. These are goals every American should be able to get behind.