Lowering America’s automotive standards

In March, the Trump administration implemented a new auto-emission regulation replacing a 2012 standard that required automakers to improve passenger vehicle efficiency.

The new rule mandates an average fuel economy of 40 MPG by 2025, a significantly less ambitious target than the original 54 MPG. Rather than requiring car-makers to improve average fuel economy by 5% annually, the new rule mandates only a 1.5% annual increase – less than the 2% annual improvement achieved without any regulation at all.

The president claimed that the rule will help Americans “buy safer, more affordable, and environmentally friendly cars.” Unfortunately, there is no evidence suggesting that any of this is true.

The Trump Administration’s own analysis predicts only negative results. The analysis indicates that consumers may initially save money on the up-front cost of new cars, but that these savings will be offset by higher gas expenditures over time. Inefficient cars with poor gas mileage will force the average car owner to pay $1,400 more over their car’s lifespan.

The analysis also predicts that the rule will cost the U.S. economy up to $22 billion, increase gasoline consumption by 80 billion gallons, and kill 13,000 auto industry jobs in a single year.

Automobiles are the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The new rule erases America’s most important emission-reducing policy and will cause the release of almost a billion more tons of carbon dioxide. This drastic pollution increase will also degrade air quality, leading to respiratory problems including COPD, heart disease, and stroke. The rule destroys clean air protection while thousands of Americans die from respiratory illnesses including those caused by COVID-19.

But the most shocking thing about the rule is that carmakers don’t want it. In June 2019, 14 of the largest auto-makers (including Ford, GM, and Toyota) sent a letter to President Trump telling him not to implement this rule. While carmakers have asked for lenient emissions standards, this extreme rollback will cause profit losses and regulatory confusion for these companies.

John Bozzella, the president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (a lobbying group representing the world’s largest car-manufacturers), denounced the rule, saying, “We need a policy environment that drives improvements in fuel economy, and the infrastructure that supports a transformation to net-zero emissions.”

About 20 U.S. states are expected to challenge the rule in court, and these legal challenges will likely take several years to resolve. This long period of litigation and lack of regulatory direction will hinder the manufacturing and sale of vehicles.

By lowering America’s standards far below those of Europe and Asia, the rule incentives American automakers to build inferior products to those of international competitors, making US cars non-competitive in the global market and potentially impacting exports. It also complicates production for multinational automakers who will be required to produce high-quality vehicles for international consumers, but less-efficient, inferior cars for Americans.

All evidence and analysis indicate that this rule change is bad for consumers, bad for the economy, bad for the environment, bad for public health, and bad for the auto-industry. It’s a loser on all fronts, and the latest example of the Trump Administration creating backwards policy that destroys opportunity, erodes America’s status as a global leader, and worsens quality of life for Americans.

Nick Wilson is a junior at Boston College and is studying environmental sciences.


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