Climate 411

Experts condemn the Trump administration’s attack on strong Clean Car Standards

Americans are already speaking out in droves against the Trump Administration’s proposal to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards.

The proposal, if finalized, would increase pollution by billions of tons, cost consumers hundreds of billions of hard-earned dollars at the gas pump, and attack long-standing state leadership on clean cars.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are now accepting public comments (you can write to them here) and they’ll hold three public hearings in September – in Fresno, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (The administration had originally announced hearings in Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington D.C. – then abruptly cancelled them with no explanation.)

But right from the beginning, before the public comment period even started, people across the country were voicing their concerns about rolling back these critical protections. Automakers themselves, including Ford and Honda, have disavowed the path the Trump administration is taking.

Here are a few of the more recent statements:

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response

Trump breaks his “jobs” promise in proposal to gut Clean Car Standards

U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum

In March 2017, President Trump held a high-profile event in Ypsilanti, Michigan to announce that his administration was re-opening the mid-term evaluation of America’s Clean Car Standards. He was joined at the event by the CEO’s of General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford among others.

His action that day kicked-off a process that culminated in today’s release of a proposal that would eviscerate those successful standards.

The Trump administration’s attack on the Clean Car Standards threatens our health and environment, will raise costs on American families, is at odds with the technical progress the industry is making to reduce vehicle pollution, contains attacks on state-authority that are flatly illegal, undermines our safety, and is based on a deeply flawed and biased analysis.

The attack also goes against the purported rationale the President gave in March 2017.

President Trump wanted us to believe that this action was all about jobs. He mentioned “jobs” 14 times in his speech, noting:

“If the standards threatened auto jobs, then commonsense changes could have and should have been made.”

He also said:

“We are going to ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs.”

The odd thing is that the Trump administration’s own analysis finds that its proposal is a job loser.

That’s right: the administration’s own assessment found that its proposal would cost at least 60,000 jobs (Table VII-5; page 784 and 785).

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, News, Policy / Read 1 Response

An outpouring of support for clean car standards, in the face of Pruitt’s attempted rollback

Cars on a dealer lot, waiting to be sold. Photo: Every Car Listed

(EDF Legal Fellow Erin Murphy co-authored this post)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt just announced his intention to rollback one of our country’s biggest climate success stories – clean car standards that reduce pollution and save Americans money at the pump.

In a closed-door ceremony, Pruitt kicked off a process to weaken these standards — placing at risk as much as two billion tons of climate pollution reductions and $460 billion in consumer savings.

His determination cited the auto industry dozens of times yet made no mention of people’s health or climate change, and cited zero EPA analyses justifying the rollback.

Even some auto industry leaders have raised concerns about this attack:

  • Honda: “We didn’t ask for that,” said Robert Bienenfeld, assistant vice president in charge of environment and energy strategy. “The position we outlined was sensible.”
  • Ford: “We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.”
  • Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls: “Trump has been saying these standards are crushing the auto industry. But we’ve had record years for the past four or five years, in terms of sales and profit. It almost makes you think he doesn’t have the facts.”
  • Automotive Technology Leadership Group: “It is in the nation’s best interest for the U.S. to continue leading in the development and manufacture of the cleanest and most efficient vehicles in the world. The innovation brought on by competition and our national performance standards has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country and significant market opportunities for U.S. companies abroad.”

Pruitt’s announcement has even generated a backlash in the most auto-industry-friendly place in America – Detroit.

In a strongly-worded editorial, the Detroit Free Press accused auto companies of reneging on their deal with the American taxpayer:

  • “[T]he auto bailout was more than a federally guaranteed loan; it was a multi-lateral agreement that your companies would henceforth go about the business of manufacturing cars and trucks more thoughtfully than they had in the past … [M]anufacturing more fuel-efficient vehicles that would cost less to operate and spew a dramatically smaller amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere was part of the bargain that saved your lives.” – Detroit Free Press editorial

The clean car standards have strong public support across the country. A recent American Lung Association poll showed that nearly seven in 10 voters want EPA to leave current fuel efficiency standards in place.

That support is reflected in the broad outpouring of support for clean cars expressed in the run up to, and aftermath of, Pruitt’s rollback announcement. A diverse group of leaders recognizes that weakening these protections will cost Americans money, hurt our health, and harm our national security:

  • “Thanks to emissions and efficiency standards, consumers have saved billions of dollars on fuel over the last 5 years. And if the standards were protected instead of undermined, consumers could expect to save a lot more over the next decade. It would be wasteful to discard those consumer savings, but EPA now appears poised to do just that.” – Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Consumers Union
  • “The American Lung Association strongly opposes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to revise the clean car standards … Transportation is the nation’s single largest contributor of carbon pollution, which drives climate change. Starting a process to weaken clean car standards marks yet another step backward from the fight to curb climate change. Climate change poses serious threats to millions of people, especially to some of the most vulnerable Americans, including children, older adults and those living with chronic diseases such as asthma.” – American Lung Association CEO Harold Wimmer
  • “Weakening CAFE and reducing future U.S. net oil exports will further diminish the future global energy leverage of the United States and leave the country and its allies on a more precarious footing.” – Council on Foreign Relations blog, 3/13/18

Political leaders across the country have voiced strong bipartisan support for the existing clean car standards:

  • “Today’s EPA decision on vehicle emissions won’t prevent us from fulfilling what we believe is an obligation to protect Colorado’s air and the health of our citizens. Many of our auto manufacturers are making cars cleaner and more efficient. Indeed, many support the existing stricter standards. It doesn’t make sense that the EPA would take us backwards. Who is the EPA trying to protect?” – Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:
  • “As U.S. attorneys general, mayors and county executives, we – not federal officials in Washington, D.C. – are primarily responsible for the transportation systems upon which our residents and our local and regional economies depend. A clean, efficient and high-performance vehicle fleet is an essential component of these systems. We strongly support the current federal standards for such a modern vehicle fleet agreed to in 2012 by the automotive industry, the federal government and the State of California.” – A Coalition of 12 State Attorneys General and Over Fifty Mayors
  • “Today’s announcement by EPA Administrator Pruitt to weaken vehicle emissions standards is in direct conflict with the agency’s mandate to reduce air pollution. This decision will increase air pollution and limit innovative technology advancements that bring cleaner, more efficient cars to market. We support the current federal standards agreed to in 2012 by the automotive industry, the federal government, and the State of California.  These standards are helping to drive the global transition to more efficient transportation technologies. They also protect the health of our communities and reduce the pollution that is changing our climate.” – 17 Governors of states across the country and Puerto Rico

Labor and investment experts have also recognized that the clean car standards are essential for long-term American auto sector innovation, vitality, and jobs:

  • “The current standards have helped bring back, secure, and create jobs nationwide; they have reduced pollution; saved consumers billions at the pump; and have been integral to growing and sustaining America’s manufacturing sector over the past decade. Weakening the rules — which is indicated to be the intent of today’s decision — could put American jobs at risk today and in coming years, and would threaten America’s competitiveness in manufacturing critical technology.” – BlueGreen Alliance Director of Advanced Vehicles and Transportation, Zoe Lipman
  • “Strong national fuel economy and emissions standards spur innovation and open the door to tremendous economic opportunities. They represent an investment in technological and economic leadership. Weakening them would be a bad deal for investors, workers, car owners, and businesses—and for the American economy itself.” -­ David Richardson, Impax Asset Management
Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Partners for Change, Policy, Pruitt, What Others are Saying / Comments are closed

Are there roadblocks ahead for America’s clean cars standards? Here are five things you need to know

Cars wait to be sold on a dealer's lot. Photo: Every Car Listed

(EDF Legal Fellow Erin Murphy co-authored this post)

America’s clean cars standards are one of our biggest climate success stories.

We’ve made major strides in reducing greenhouse gas pollution since protective standards were put in place in 2012 – spurring fuel efficiency gains at the same time.

New innovations have made additional progress even more clearly achievable – and have set the stage for a future free from tailpipe pollution.

Yet, when it comes to cars, the Trump administration is stuck in reverse.

President Trump is reportedly considering a dramatic rollback of our existing clean cars standards. Right now, an EPA action to set this reversal in motion is under White House review.

Ford broke ranks earlier this week, publicly disavowing a rollback of these climate pollution protections.

Yet it’s rumored that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will issue a decision as early as Friday that would set in motion a potentially dramatic weakening of these safeguards. It’s time for policy-makers and automakers like GM, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota to take a stand and reject these baseless attacks.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Climate progress in the balance

Tremendous climate progress is at stake.

EPA estimated that the clean cars program would reduce climate pollution by six billion tons over its lifetime and cut other dangerous air pollutants as well. That’s how much climate pollution America emits in a year, from all sources and all sectors.

The American Lung Association and twelve other public health organizations have all underscored the importance of maintaining protective clean cars standards.

The transportation sector has become America’s largest contributor of climate pollution. It is also a significant source of harmful soot and smog-causing pollution.

Now is the time to accelerate reductions from this sector, not stall out. Yet leaked details suggest the Trump administration is moving to significantly weaken upcoming standards for cars in model years 2022 to 2025 – eroding the benefits of the standards by almost 60 percent.

  1. Savings every time you fuel up

Clean cars standards are a win-win – in addition to reducing pollution, they save consumers money at the gas pump.

This program gradually reduces climate pollution rates from cars and trucks – driving five percent reductions each year through flexible fleet-wide standards and spurring comparable year-by-year improvements in fuel efficiency.

Drivers are already benefiting from our existing standards. For example, each Ford F-150 truck bought in 2015 uses about 180 fewer gallons of gas a year than prior models. That saves its owner eight trips to the gas station and up to $700 per year, depending on the price of fuel.

The standards will bring even greater savings in the future. Families that purchase a new car or truck in 2025 will save an estimated $1,650 over the lifetime of that vehicle, compared to a car just three years older.

Over the lifetime of the clean cars program, the savings to American families and businesses will add up to more than a trillion dollars.

The 86 percent of Americans who finance their car with a five-year loan are expected to immediately realize the cost savings from cleaner, more efficient vehicles. This is true even with lower gas prices.

  1. We have the know-how to exceed these standards

The improvements under the existing clean cars standards are technically feasible and affordable.

Automakers and suppliers are developing and deploying innovative technologies faster than anticipated when the standards were finalized.

EPA, the Department of Transportation, and the California Air Resources Board conducted an exhaustive technical review of the auto industry’s ability to meet the 2022 to 2025 model year standards. They found extensive evidence that the automotive industry can meet those standards at lower costs than predicted when the standards were initially finalized in 2012.

Since the clean cars program began in 2012, there has been roughly a doubling in the number of SUVs that achieve 25 miles per gallon or more, the number of cars that achieve 30 miles per gallon or more, and the number of cars that achieve 40 miles per gallon or more.

Today there are already more than 100 car, SUV, and pickup models on the market that meet standards set for 2020 and beyond.

If any changes are made, the standards should be strengthened.

  1. Supporting American jobs and innovation now and into the future

Well-designed federal standards foster the deployment of fuel saving solutions.

We have seen this cycle play out over the past several years, as automakers have brought more efficient cars and trucks to market with record sales and strong profitability.

Today, the auto industry directly employs millions of Americans and employment at auto dealerships is at its highest level ever.

Automakers have recognized this strong financial performance in recent annual reports:

  •  “[Fiat Chrysler] posted another record performance in 2017, achieving ambitious financial targets … We have now reached or exceeded all key financial goals for the first four years of the current five-year plan.”  Fiat Chrysler 2017 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter
  • “2016 was the best year in its history of more than 130 years.” Daimler 2016 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter
  • “2016 was a very strong year for General Motors, one that included the launch of dozens of award-winning products around the world, record sales and earnings, substantial return of capital to shareholders and remarkable progress in our drive to define and lead the future of personal mobility. In North America, we achieved record earnings last year and exceeded our 10-percent-margin goal for the second consecutive year.” General Motors 2016 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter

In a 2016 letter supporting EPA’s proposal to reaffirm the clean cars standards, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) noted:

  • “UAW members know firsthand that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards have spurred investments in new products that employ tens of thousands of our members.”

Other countries – including China, the world’s largest new vehicle market — are pushing toward a zero-emissions future. U.S. automakers can’t afford to fall behind.

Protective clean car standards spur investment that will preserve and increase automakers’ global competitiveness.

  1. State leadership at risk

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.

Administrator Pruitt recently made aggressive public statements smearing this success story and suggesting that the Trump administration’s coming attack may even seek to stifle these state-led programs.

Under long-standing provisions in the Clean Air Act, California is authorized to set its own vehicle pollution standards, and all other states have authority to adopt and enforce these standards. Today a third of U.S. new car sales are covered by the coalition of states that have committed to protective clean car standards.

In Ford’s public comments this week, the company recognized this history and committed to working together with California to build a path forward. Yet Administrator Pruitt’s irresponsible comments suggest he is reviewing an existing waiver that allows for implementation of this state success story — and may be considering revoking this waiver, even though such a step has never been taken and has no basis in law.

Pruitt’s comments show a clear disregard for his professed concern for states’ rights.

The takeaway? We need to move forward, not shift into reverse

Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that the Trump administration is set to roll back these protections — just as they’ve relentlessly attacked so many other common sense pollution standards.

EDF will defend the progress we’ve made cleaning up pollution from our cars, and we’ll push for even more progress. We hope all Americans will join us in defense of these crucial safeguards.

  • Policymakers at all levels need to stand against these rollbacks and advance clean cars through the myriad of avenues available to them.
  • Automakers need to make clear that they stand for common sense standards that spur continued progress on clean vehicles today and continued movement towards a future without tailpipe pollution.
  • Individual citizens need to push back against these reckless cuts.

The climate and health protections contained in the clean car standards are critical, well-founded, and eminently achievable. We will be fighting to keep them whole.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

New records just released under FOIA raise an important question: Did the Trump transition team consider dismissing EPA’s Inspector General?

Recently released documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest that President Trump’s transition team considered — then decided against — dismissing EPA’s Inspector General.

Myron Ebell, who headed the transition at EPA for then-President-Elect Trump, emailed an EPA career staffer on January 13, 2017 that the transition team, “want[ed] to retain the EPA’s IG for the present.”

Ebell wanted to relay the information to the Inspector General “without any formal communication.” He went on to express a strong preference for delivering the message himself, rather than delegating to EPA career staff.

These documents were released under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Myron Ebell’s stint leading the EPA transition was a brief departure from his usual job at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where his polluter-funded work aims to slash health and environmental protections and spread climate denialism. It is currently unclear why he — or any member of the Trump transition team — needed to reach out to EPA’s Inspector General for a conversation about job security.

Notably, Ebell’s January 13, 2017 email message was expressly hedged, indicating only that the Inspector General would be retained “for the present.”

For 30 years, dismissing Inspectors General has not been a normal part of presidential transitions. Only President Reagan — the first President to assume office after Congress created Inspectors General — did so, and he partly backtracked under intense political pressure.

Now, the Trump Administration has taken worrying steps toward undermining the integrity of Inspectors General across the federal government.

Congress created the position of Inspector General at federal agencies in order to conduct audits and to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.

The statute creating the position provides that Inspectors General:

[S]hall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations. (emphasis added)

Congress has repeatedly emphasized the need for independent Inspectors General:

  • A 2010 amendment to the Inspector General Act required the President to provide Congress with advance notice and explanation before removing an Inspector General from office.
  • Congress further enhanced the role of Inspector General with the bipartisan Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016.

Since assuming office in 2010, EPA’s Inspector General has pursued investigations under both President Obama and President Trump.

Subjecting Inspectors General to political pressure utterly defies the Congressional objective of independent oversight at federal agencies. It sets the stage for corruption and puts taxpayer dollars at risk.

Myron Ebell’s involvement in discussions about the EPA Inspector General’s employment status raises two pressing questions:

  • Why was the EPA Inspector General’s job status ever in doubt among the Trump transition team?
  • Why did Myron Ebell want to conceal his communication with the Inspector General?

The Trump Administration and Myron Ebell owe the public answers to these questions.

Also posted in News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed

Americans speak up for clean cars at EPA public hearing

A public hearing today on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s effort to reverse America’s Clean Car Standards drew widespread support for keeping the protections in place.

I got the chance to join more than a hundred people who signed up to testify at the Washington, D.C. hearing – and they overwhelmingly spoke in favor of the Clean Car Standards and praised the benefits they provide for climate security and economic prosperity for our communities and families. (You can read my full testimony here.)

The American public stands to lose vital benefits if the Clean Cars Standards are reversed

The Clean Car Standards are already at work reducing climate pollution, driving innovative new technologies, improving our energy security, and saving American families money at the gas pump. But last month, the Trump Administration announced formal steps to begin reconsidering the existing standards for cars and passenger trucks for model years 2022 to 2025 – which could stop that progress.

Under the standards already in place, people who buy a new car or truck in 2025 would save thousands of dollars on fuel over the lifetime of those vehicles. In total, EPA projects that consumers would save more than $1 trillion because of the standards.

The 86 percent of Americans who finance their vehicle with a five-year loan are expected to immediately realize the cost savings from cleaner, more efficient vehicles. This is true even with recent lower gas prices.

Meanwhile, the Clean Car standards would reduce America’s oil consumption by two million barrels per day by 2025 – more than we import from any single country other than Canada. According to Ret. Lt. General Richard Zilmer:

Over-reliance on oil ties our nation to far-flung conflicts, sends our troops into harm’s way, and endangers them once they’re in conflict zones. Ensuring that the cars and trucks we drive every day go farther on every gallon of gas makes our nation stronger.

The Clean Car program would also eliminate an estimated six billion metric tons of carbon pollution over the life of the vehicles subject to the standards, which is more than a year’s worth of U.S. carbon emissions.

We’re making progress faster and cheaper than expected

EPA’s recent rigorous evaluation of the existing standards found that technologies are developing more quickly and at even lower costs than EPA originally projected – making the standards for the later model years appropriate and even more feasible than was first thought.

Per vehicle compliance costs are significantly lower than those projected in 2012 ($252 lower for cars and $197 lower for trucks as compared to 2012 projections).

 

 

Both the U.S. and world automotive markets are moving forward

Reopening the final Clean Car Standards will create uncertainty, slow innovation and hurt U.S. economic leadership.

Auto manufacturers have strongly recovered from the 2008 recession while increasing vehicle efficiency and cutting pollution

During the height of the economic recession in 2008, the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse. This prompted the Obama Administration to develop a bailout package for the industry, which provided the boost the industry needed to help rebound.

Last year, drivers in the United States bought more cars than ever before – roughly 70 percent more vehicles than during the recession – as fuel economy rose to its highest levels yet.

In total, the auto industry has added nearly 700,000 direct jobs since the recession – supporting several million indirect jobs throughout the economy. Auto manufacturing jobs account for 40 percent of all net jobs added in U.S. manufacturing since the recession.

In a letter supporting EPA’s proposal to reaffirm the Phase 2 standards, the United Auto Workers (UAW) noted:

UAW members know firsthand that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards have spurred investments in new products that employ tens of thousands of our members.

Today, the auto industry directly employs millions of Americans and employment at auto dealerships is at its highest level ever. Automakers have recognized this strong financial performance in recent annual reports:

Our solid business results included record profits and an increased worldwide market share. Overall, we achieved our sixth consecutive year of both profit and positive operating-related cash flow, which enabled us to distribute $2.5 billion to our shareholders and grow our regular dividend by 20 percent. – Ford 2015 Annual report, Letter from Executive Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr.

2016 was the best year in its history of more than 130 years. — Daimler 2016 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter

[Fiat Chrysler] closed 2016 with another record financial performance … all of our segments were profitable and showed improvement over the prior year. – FCA 2016 Annual Report, Letter from the Chairman and the CEO

As so many testified today, Americans want to move forward on clean cars.

At EDF, we're committed to holding Administrator Pruitt accountable if he recklessly rolls back these common sense standards. We hope you'll join us and take action for Clean Cars.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed