Trump fuel economy rollback will kill jobs and cost each car buyer $1,650

It would also boost U.S. oil use 1.2 billion barrels while reducing the car industry’s global competitiveness.

An Arcfox-7 Chinese electric sports car at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in April 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
An Arcfox-7 Chinese electric sports car at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in April 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

President Donald Trump is reopening the Obama administration’s federal carbon pollution standards for new cars.

Trump is traveling to Detroit on Wednesday to announce an executive order with the ultimate goal of rolling back the tough standards that apply to model years 2022–2025. This won’t be a quick process: A year-long review of the standards would be followed by a new rule-making — and then lengthy legal challenges.

Trump’s misguided move to appease the ever-myopic U.S. auto industry would undo efficiency gains that will provide consumers $98 billion in total net benefits, primarily from reduced fuel use. Individual car buyers would lose “a net savings of $1,650” (even after accounting for the higher vehicle cost) as the EPA concluded in its final January “Determination on the Appropriateness” of the standards.

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

Rolling back the standards would also boost 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 benefit 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.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday that Trump’s visit to Detroit will focus on “highlighting the need to eliminate burdens from regulations that needlessly hinder meaningful job growth.”

But the fact is the fuel efficiency standards are job creators and economy boosters.

Indeed, allowing U.S. car companies to keep building inefficient cars will undermine the industry’s competitiveness as the rest of the world enacts much more stringent standards that promote super-efficient cars — and as countries from Germany to India consider banning gas-powered cars outright by 2030.

Obama, whose bailout of the industry saved countless jobs, enacted standards that will speed the industry towards the inevitable transition to super-efficient and electric cars. Ultimately, carbon pollution standards are job creators because, like most future-oriented clean air regulations, they spur investment and innovation, as many studies have shown.

Car companies complained to Trump in November that complying with Obama’s standards would require them to spend a “staggering” $200 billion between 2012 and 2025. Of course, they left out the part where spending that money would create a staggering number of jobs — jobs designing and manufacturing efficient technologies to use in their cars that they would sell to consumers who would in turn lower their fuel bill.

“The rest of the world is moving forward with electric cars,” former senior EPA official Margo Oge told the New York Times. “If the Trump administration goes backward, the U.S. won’t be able to compete globally.”

In an alternate universe where Donald Trump actually focused on enacting policies that would benefit consumers and create jobs — rather than benefiting corporate America and Big Oil — Trump would celebrate and even strengthen fuel economy standards.

Really, the only group that stands to benefit from keeping the U.S. car fleet addicted to gasoline are the oil companies. But is that such a big surprise for an administration that named the CEO of ExxonMobil to be Secretary of State — and that last week issued a release praising Exxon that was plagiarized from an Exxon press release?

Finally, EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who will be traveling with Trump to Detroit, has acknowledged he acted on behalf of the oil industry when he was Oklahoma attorney general. In 2014, he wrote a letter to EPA (opposing the agency’s Mercury Air Toxics Standard) on state letterhead that turned out to have been written by Devon Energy.

Since Pruitt is the one who will be overseeing the new rule-making process, no one will be shocked if the decision ends up in favor of rolling back the standards.