As gas prices soar, Trump wants Americans to spend $100 billion more on driving

Trump blames OPEC for rising oil prices -- but he used to blame President Obama.

President Donald Trump and then-Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman speak in the Oval Office March 14, 2017.   CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump and then-Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman speak in the Oval Office March 14, 2017. CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The price of crude oil has jumped to its highest level in more than three years. As a result, Americans are facing the “costliest driving season in years,” CBS explained Monday morning.

Yet despite soaring gasoline prices — and a recent tweet by the President bemoaning high oil prices — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Transportation Department will soon be sending the White House a proposal to roll-back Obama-era fuel economy standards. And these standard would result in nearly $100 billion in higher costs for U.S. drivers in the coming years. 

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“The preferred course of action would freeze fuel-economy standards at 2020 levels for both cars and light trucks,” the New York Times, which spoke to a federal official who had seen the plan, reported Friday.

The Trump Administration plans to roll-back Obama-era fuel economy standards.
The Trump Administration plans to roll-back Obama-era fuel economy standards.

As the EPA itself concluded in its final January 2017 “Determination on the Appropriateness” of the standards, such a roll-back would have disastrous consequences for U.S. consumers, competitiveness, and a livable climate.

The savings from the standards put in place by Obama are so significant that the EPA calculates “consumers who finance their vehicle with a 5-year loan would see payback within the first year.”

Freezing the standards at 2020 levels would undo efficiency gains that would provide consumers $98 billion in total net benefits, primarily from reduced fuel use, the EPA found. Individual car buyers would lose “a net savings of $1,650” (even after accounting for the higher vehicle cost).

The roll back would also raise U.S. oil consumption by 1.2 billion gallons and increase U.S. carbon pollution by 540 billion tons over the lifetime of the model-year 2022–2025 cars. And the full cost is far more than that, since the EPA didn’t look at the impact on cars built after 2025 that would also be subject to the weaker standards.

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Yet even as his own administration is planning to make driving more expensive for future Americans, Trump himself tweeted ten days ago, “Looks like OPEC is at it again … Oil prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be accepted!”

The President blames OPEC for high oil prices, but back in 2012 when gasoline prices soared, Trump tweeted that President Obama “could have stopped this.”

Trump wasn’t the only one attacking Obama for high gas prices back then. “Rising Gas Prices Give G.O.P. Issue to Attack Obama,” as one front-page New York Times headline from 2012 put it.

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Today, Trump appears to be trying to ward off similar attacks by shifting the blame to OPEC. But as CNBC has noted, if Trump takes a harder line towards Iran, that could remove more oil from the market and raise prices even more.

Moreover, blaming OPEC means blaming OPEC’s 800-pound gorilla, Saudi Arabia, as well as its Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman — with whom Trump has  established a cozy relationship. Indeed CBNC quotes one leading oil expert who points out, “If he’s really concerned about OPEC policy, he should pick up the phone and call Mohammed bin Salman.”

The reality is that if Trump cared about what Americans’ gasoline bills were, he wouldn’t be in the process of undoing Obama’s fuel economy standards. Undoing these rules will result in less efficient vehicles and more trips to the gas station.