The Trump administration is poised to issue a final rule rolling back America’s successful Clean Car Standards, dramatically weakening these standards for Model Years 2021 through 2026. Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing to investigate this harmful move.Rolling back the Clean Car Standards would increase pollution and raise costs for American families. Even the auto industry is raising concerns—just this month, seventeen automakers called on the Trump administration to reverse course, stating that the administration’s rollback could result in “an extended period of litigation and instability” which could prove “untenable.” Who stands to benefit from this reckless action? Congress is investigating the oil industry’s role in pushing for the administration’s rollback.
The attack on Clean Car Standards would come on the heels of the administration’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan, another destructive step that will increase pollution and undermine opportunities to harness low-cost clean energy. As communities across the country suffer from catastrophic floods, heat waves, and other extreme weather fueled by climate change, our country needs leadership to address the crisis—but instead, the Trump administration is tearing down common sense safeguards.
Here’s more information on the administration’s plans to drastically weaken Clean Car Standards:
The administration’s own analysis shows a clean cars rollback will cost jobs
The Trump administration’s own analysis found that its effort to weaken clean car standards is a job loser. That’s right – the administration’s own assessment of its proposed rollback found that it would cost 60,000 jobs (Table VII-5; page 784 and 785).
The United Automobile Workers has noted that their members “know firsthand” that these standards “have spurred investments in new products that employ tens of thousands of our members.” The group’s president, Dennis Williams, stated that he did not support the administration’s attack on the Clean Car standards:
“We had an agreement … I don’t think that we ought to be rolling back the standards. I think we ought to use some common sense here.”
The 60,000 job loss figure is likely low because it fails to account for the cost of ceding innovation and technology leadership to other countries. China is now the dominant market for global vehicles sales, and its long-term commitment to zero-emission vehicles remains strong.
The next generation of American automotive jobs will be at companies that lead the global transition to zero-emission vehicles. For example, Synapse Energy Economics recently found that embracing vehicle electrification by itself stands to create – for Ohio alone – more than 9,000 jobs and $900 million in annual Gross Domestic Product.
Even automakers have major concerns. Seventeen automakers representing nearly 90% of domestic auto sales recently called on the Trump administration to reverse course, raising concerns that the administration’s rollback could result in “an extended period of litigation and instability” which could prove “untenable.”
The administration is nevertheless pressing ahead with its rollback; the very next day it rebuffed the automakers’ request to change course and negotiate an outcome that all parties could support.
Rolling back the Clean Car Standards will dramatically increase pollution and harm health
The administration’s own analysis of the proposal concluded that its recommended policy would increase climate pollution from cars and trucks between now and 2100 by 7.4 billion metric tons. That is more than the entire U.S. emitted last year (about 6.5 billion tons). But the Trump administration significantly underestimated the greenhouse gas emissions its proposal would cause—an independent analysis by EDF indicates that the emissions increase would be far greater.
The administration analysis also states that the recommended policy would result in increases in health-harming criteria pollutants like oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), both chemical precursors to ozone, and dangerous diesel particulate matter (DPM). However, EDF’s modeling results again show the administration dramatically underestimated the actual impact of the rollback due to their use of flawed and biased assumptions.
A recent report by Bill and Mary Becker analyzed the impacts of the rollback and found that up to 32,000 people nationwide could die prematurely just from the anticipated increases in fine particles and millions of others are expected to develop serious illnesses including asthma and heart attacks. The health impacts will be felt in every state. And many state and local agencies’ that rely on the emissions reductions from the existing standards will struggle to comply with the Clean Air Act, putting them at risk of losing millions of dollars of federal grants for building highways and other infrastructure.
The administration’s rollback will cost Americans at the gas pump
With strong clean car standards, Americans save hard-earned money at the gas pump because those cleaner cars can go farther on a gallon of gasoline.
An analysis by M.J. Bradley & Associates found that with the current Clean Car Standards in place, owners of model year 2025 cars would see net savings of up to $5,000 over the lifetime of their cars compared to model year 2020 vehicles, and trucks owners could save up to $8,000.
The vast majority of families who finance their car purchase will start saving money as soon as they drive a car off the lot. For all families, their savings continue as long as they own their vehicle.
However, the proposed rollback would result in vehicles built after 2020 consuming more than 200 billion more gallons of gasoline over the next few decades than they would have under the current standards.
According to the M.J Bradley report, that would cost Americans in every state. With the anticipated rollback, an average family will spend $200 more every year on fuel, and could spend as much as $500 more every year if gas prices rise — with low-income Americans that commute long distances particularly hard hit.
Extensive safety analysis supports strong Clean Car Standards
Multiple federal agencies – including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the lead federal agency charged with vehicle safety – as well as the National Academy of Sciences and the California Air Resources Board have done extensive, sophisticated technical safety assessments. The findings of those assessments support the existing Clean Car Standards.
The studies, analyses and crash-worthiness simulations conducted during these assessments have resulted in thousands of pages of data showing that the Clean Car Standards are fully compatible with safer vehicles and fewer fatalities — and roundly rejecting the administration’s false contention that the standards harm vehicle safety.
The administration’s analytic justification for rolling back the standards has been widely criticized. In a Science article earlier this year, a group of researchers concluded that the agencies’ analysis “has fundamental flaws and inconsistences [and] is at odds with basic economic theory and empirical studies.”
State leadership under attack
The administration is reportedly pressing ahead with its attacks on long-standing state authority to enforce tougher standards than those implemented at the federal level.
Over the last half century, state leadership has played a key role in spurring the development and deployment of clean car solutions like smog-fighting catalytic converters.
Under long-standing provisions in the Clean Air Act, California has authority to set its own vehicle pollution standards, and other states are authorized to adopt these standards. Today more than a third of U.S. new car sales are covered by the coalition of states that have committed to protective clean car standards: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Vermont.
The administration’s proposal to roll back the Clean Car Standards would stifle these successful state-led programs, while needlessly creating uncertainty for all parties.
A broad coalition supports the existing Clean Car Standards
A strong coalition has already filed in court to defend the existing clean cars program. These parties are challenging ex-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s April 2018 Final Determination concluding that the Clean Car Standards should be rolled back — a decision which obligated EPA to weaken these protections.
Parties that filed in court include:
- 18 states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Colorado filed separately as an amicus or “friend of the court.”
- An industry coalition including major power companies and auto industry interests is also challenging the Final Determination as a party in the case.
- A coalition of cities and counties, including: the National League of Cities; the U.S. Conference of Mayors; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Boulder County, Colorado; and West Palm Beach, Florida. In its brief, the local government coalition argues why Pruitt’s Determination to weaken existing standards is particularly harmful to cities across America: “Cities and local governments are at the frontlines of managing climate change and are uniquely affected by the impacts of climate change on human health, infrastructure, natural resources, and local economies.”