Savings From Fuel Economy Regulations (Already in the Billions) Keep on Ticking Up

March 30, 2017 | 8:42 am
Dave Cooke
Senior Vehicles Analyst

By the time you’ve finished reading this sentence, American drivers will have saved another $4,000 in fuel costs thanks to the current fuel economy and global warming emissions regulations.  And that number will keep on ticking upwards with each new vehicle purchase, since the cars and trucks available today continue to improve in efficiency each and every year.  But it hasn’t always been this way—and the current administration seems to want to take us back.

Fuel economy has not historically improved in absence of regulation

Fuel economy regulations have been critical in moving the needle towards energy efficiency—the auto industry is historically resistant to change, pushing back on safety improvements like air bags and seat belts, resisting and circumventing requirements to reduce tailpipe pollutants, and even fighting fuel economy standards despite the tremendous benefits to their customers, the environment, and national security.  The data speaks for itself—in the years when fuel economy standards remained constant, manufacturers didn’t improve the fuel economy of their offerings, choosing instead to put technology improvements towards more power and bigger engines.

Standards have been a boon to consumers

Historically, fuel economy has only improved when standards have been tightened. (Values shown are lab test values—the “sticker” value is about 20 percent lower today.)

Research just published by the Baker Center for Public Policy shows the tremendous impact that these standards have had for consumers.  Over the lifetime of the CAFE program, it is estimated to have saved about 1.5 trillion gallons of gasoline to-date, leading to over $4 TRILLION in net savings for American drivers, even including any additional technology costs to achieve those standards.  And those savings are especially important for the most economically vulnerable populations who buy on the used car market and spend a greater share of their income on fuel—fuel economy standards are a progressive policy measure, resulting in proportionally greater benefits for poorer households.

A helpful visual to consider

To put the fuel savings from the current standards in perspective, we’ve put together a savings ticker showing how American drivers have been saving money with this program.  The program has saved tens of billions of dollars and growing with each passing second because manufacturers have had to provide consumers with more cars and trucks that are much more efficient than they were back in 2010, before the current EPA and NHTSA program took effect.

Every vehicle fueled by these standards is using less gasoline, keeping money in the hands of consumers and not oil companies, money which can be used to further drive the economy forward.  These fuel savings represent not just economic benefits but also the environmental and national security benefits of using less gasoline.

The standards are under attack

Despite the obvious benefits of these cost-effective fuel economy and global warming emissions standards, the auto industry has engaged the current administration to weaken the rules.  Thus far, the regulators have capitulated to industry’s demands—if that trend continues, we could see a rollback that could cost the American people about $100 billion, not to mention the additional use of more than 1 billion barrels of oil that will reduce our national security and result in more than 500 million metric tons of additional global warming emissions.

If you need a reminder of what’s at stake, just check out our ticker.  Share with your network so we can continue to tell the story of what the auto industry and this administration are threatening to take away from the American people.