The Trump administration is courting economic and environmental disaster if it elects to heed to the initial wishes of automakers and rolls back Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, according to a panel of consumer, economic and environmental safety advocates.
A group of five advocates asserted that President Trump’s desire to rollback fuel economy and emission standards to levels below the Obama-era mandate will ultimately harm consumers, the environment and the economy.
“The current CAFE requirements are good for consumers — period,” said David Friedman, director of Cars and Product Policy, Consumers Union, during a conference call. “The rollback the industry has sought and this administration has delivered will hurt consumers.”
Friedman, who was once head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was joined by Paul Billings, national senior vice president, American Lung Association; Ken Locklin, director of Business Development, Impax Asset Management; Jack Gillis, incoming executive director of the Consumer Federation of America; and General Donald Hoffman (ret.), Air Force Materiel Command.
(Ford supports keeping tougher CAFE standards after push by enviro groups. Click Here for the story.)
The group contends that despite recent declarations that they are in favor of keeping CAFE rules where they are and that a single national standard is what they want, automakers asked for the change and Trump is simply giving them what they want.
“What we have here is a case of the dog catching the car,” Gillis said, noting that “every one of the manufacturers wrote to the president after the election asking for reprieve from the standards.”
Gillis is referencing a February 2017 letter from the Alliances of Automobile Manufacturers citing several reasons for tossing out the Obama administration’s decision to implement the final stage of CAFE, which centers on a 54.5 mpg fleet average.
(Click Here to see more about the auto industry backing away from CAFE cuts.)
Friedman said the about-face by automakers should be taken with caution. “I would agree we’re getting confusing messages from the auto industry. They want to project an image that they want to do more. They always talk about flexibility, but in my experience that is a code word for loophole. I’d like to see an automaker come in with a plan.”
However, much of the focus of the group centers on economics. They note that during times where fuel economy averages were set to move higher, automotive sales have been strong. Perhaps just as importantly, consumers see value in more fuel-efficient vehicles.
“Consumers want these fuel efficiency standards and they are willing to pay for them,” Gillis noted. “Fuel efficient vehicles sell much better than their less efficient (predecessors). A roll back could have a devastating impact if they decide to not keep up the standard.”
(To see more about why 1 in 5 Americans wants to own an EV, Click Here.)
Friedman also noted that when at full implementation that not only will consumers save as much as $4,800 due to the improved fuel efficiency of their new vehicles, but the staggered implementation of the tougher standards has saved them thousands. He also pointed out those savings are often plowed into the purchase a newer, safer car so tougher fuel economy mandates also translate to safer roads.