The Verdict is in: H.R. 910 is Bad for Health, Gas Bills and Oil Dependency

Today, a key US House committee is scheduled to vote on HR 910, the bill that would not only allow unlimited carbon pollution from smokestacks, but would also raise drivers’ fuel bills and worsen our oil dependency by blocking clean car standards.

Somewhat incredibly, Chairman Fred Upton’s claims his HR 910 bill is a “first step” to stopping rising gas prices (see his letter to his colleagues on the Hill). Politifact (the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checker of political claims) took a closer look at Upton's bill and pronounced the claim of gas price increases “FALSE”.

Upton’s bill, in fact, will increase driver fuel bills by blocking new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pollution standards for new cars for 2017 and beyond. Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) could still set fuel economy standards, EPA’s standards are more effective than the DOT’s fuel economy standards at saving money, oil and pollution.

The greater effectiveness is due to differences in underlying statutes. Based on EPA’s and DOT’s own analysis, the existing Environmental Protection Agency program results in much greater benefits over the life of the model year 2012-2016 vehicles covered by the rule:  44% more consumer cost savings, 27% more oil savings, and 47% more carbon pollution reductions. That’s a loss of $58 billion in net consumer savings, 18 billion gallons in reduced oil consumption, and 307 million metric tons of carbon pollution reductions. (See my previous blog for more explanation).

The next round of EPA standards will have similar levels of benefits over the DOT fuel economy program alone. The standards for 2017-2025 have the potential to raise fuel economy to as high as 62 mpg, and save drivers as much as an additional $7,400 over the life of vehicle. These numbers are conservative since EPA’s estimates were done prior to the recent run up in oil prices.

By repealing the “endangerment” finding, the bill may also block the current 2012-16 National Program standards too.  The Environmental Protection Agency carbon pollution standards for 2012-2016, if allowed to go forward, will save drivers $3,000 over life of the vehicle.

Besides blocking clean car standards, H.R. 910 will also worsen oil dependency by preventing EPA from setting similar standards for planes, trains, ships, off-road equipment and industrial uses. As pointed out by Rep. Markey at last week’s subcommittee hearing on H.R. 910, EPA’s broader pollution authority gives it the opportunity to reduce oil use from planes, trains, ships, off-road equipment and industrial uses which compromises 45% of our oil use. DOT, on the other hand, has no authority to set fuel economy standards for these sources.

Our pocketbooks, economy and our national security should not be held hostage to global prices, supply shocks and political events largely beyond our control.  Cutting our oil dependency through efficiency and clean fuels is the only real solution.

Let’s hope Congress stops playing games with our future and rejects H.R. 910.