President at an event at an oil refinery in North Dakota (2017), a reminder of the value the current administration on the oil and gas industry. D. Myles Cullen (Official White House Photo)

Trump Administration Finalizes Car Rule as Handout to Fossil Fuel Industry

, senior vehicles analyst | April 6, 2020, 3:14 pm EDT
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Earlier this week, the administration rolled back fuel economy and emissions standards. It was such a bad idea that even their own analysis showed that it would cause $10-20 billion in net harm to the American people. So you might be asking yourself…why did they do it? Let’s see what they said:

Wow, that’s a lot of lies in that one little tweet. So let’s break it down…

Even industry says the “SAFE” standards are unrealistically low

Claim: The fuel économy [sic] and emissions standards set by the Obama administration are not attainable, while these standards are realistic.

Fact: Automakers are in compliance with those standards right now, selling the most fuel-efficient vehicles in history. And, they are sitting on literally millions of credits in order to continue complying with those standards as they transition to even more efficient vehicles to make good on the promise of those standards, as is noted by Andrew Wheeler’s own agency, the EPA. Even automakers like Ford, Honda, VW, BMW, and now Volvo agree that they plan to well exceed the technology in the rollback, so these supposedly “realistic” standards fall well short of what the industry itself is already planning to do!

OK, so it’s not because the standards aren’t achievable…so why are they doing this?

EPA’s own rule admits that this rule will increase pollution

EPA’s own rule shows that it will result in 900 million metric tons of additional global warming emissions, hundreds of tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and thousands of tons of harmful particulate matter (PM), or “soot.”

Claim: Cars will reduce pollution.

Fact: Whoo boy is that a doozie! Apparently, Mr. Wheeler did not read his own rule, which shows the tremendous increases in pollution resulting from this disastrous proposal. Not only is it bad for the climate, thanks to the 2 billion barrels of additional oil burned as a result of this rule—it’s bad for public health, thanks to the massive increases in emissions, according to EPA’s own analysis.

The SAFE rule will kill people

Claim: Cars will be safer and lives saved.

Fact: Actually, most of the supposed safety benefits don’t come from new cars being driven—they come from new cars NOT being driven because they consume so much more fuel. So sayeth the EPA, at least: “The reduction in fatalities under the final standards compared to the previous standards is primarily driven by the modeling’s projected changes in VMT and associated changes in mobility (i.e., people driving less).”

Even their bizarre projections that this rule would result in literally millions more cars being sold (cars that no one wants to drive, mind you) would only result in just 685 avoided traffic fatalities. The number of increased fatalities from the air pollution mentioned above that Mr. Wheeler neglected to acknowledge? Up to 1444 deaths, more than twice as many “saved,” not to mention the additional 20,000 cases of exacerbated asthma and hundreds of cardiovascular and respiratory illness-related hospitalizations EPA’s own analysis says would result from this rule…not exactly the life-saving results promised by Mr. Wheeler.

OK, so if it’s not about safety and saving lives, then why do this at all? What’s Wheeler’s boss say?

This rule costs jobs!

Claim: This rule will create American jobs.

Fact: The administration’s own analysis says, “when compared to the standards set in 2012, fewer jobs will be specifically created to meet infeasible regulatory requirements. … Generally speaking, the agencies’ analysis shows net labor utilization increasing with stringency.”

On net, EPA’s own analysis shows that consumers are set to LOSE $700 as a result of this action, which is bad not just for them, but the economy overall.

It’s not just talk, either—their own numbers detail the job losses resulting from this action, with up to 20,000 jobs lost in the auto industry alone as a result of this action. Macroeconomic analysis (which the administration did not do) show that this number is far worse (more than 100,000 jobs), since the net consumer costs projected by the administration (up to $700 per vehicle) means shifting money from more efficient job creating industries to the oil and gas industry, which is one of the least-efficient industries when it comes to job creation.

But for this rule, that is precisely the point.

Fact: This rule is a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry

Rather than transitioning away from fossil fuel use, as the industry seems to be pivoting towards, the administration has done everything in its power to hamstring that progress, including some extra, nonsensical giveaways to the industry like extending a multiplier for compressed natural gas vehicles. Impressively, they completely undercut any possible rationale for such a multiplier by noting, “The application of a 2.0 multiplier for natural gas vehicles for MYs 2022-2026 would have no impact on the analysis because given the state of natural gas vehicle refueling infrastructure, the cost to equip vehicles with natural gas tanks, the outlook for petroleum prices, and the outlook for battery prices, we have little basis to project more than an inconsequential response to this incentive in the foreseeable future.” That’s right…these vehicles are so pointless, EPA doesn’t expect anyone to build them. It’s notable that they let a similar credit for electric vehicles expire in their efforts to extend the stranglehold the oil and gas industry has on our transportation system.

This rule helps no one but the oil and gas industry, but that is exactly the point.

D. Myles Cullen; Official White House Photo

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  • Gary Amstutz

    There is a proposal that has been introduced by State Senator Devon Mathis that would mandate all diesel be replaced by bio diesel inside California. Now, Biodiesel produces less C02 but actually produces more N02. Possibly the No2 could be filtered out with newer exhaust filters. But if Trump is relaxing the standards, drivers might actually be able to get away with exhaust systems that do not filter out the No2. The result would be more smog instead of less. Time to worry.

    • David Cooke

      Thanks for your comment. NOx from trucks is a very critical issue on which we’re focused, which is why we’ve been pressing the California Air Resources Board on both its Advanced Clean Trucks rule (e.g., this blog) to promote a transition a way from diesel and CARB’s forthcoming Ultra-low NOx rule to ensure that the remaining diesel-powered trucks are as clean as possible.

    • Mostlynew

      The popular debate emphasis on CO2 reduction seems misplaced, since NOx has about 300x’s the greenhouse effect. About half of NOx comes from autos and trucks, and very little +/- 5% from electrical utilities (incl. coal), it seems to me that the move to electric vehicles already taking place is the answer.

      • David Cooke

        You are specifically referring to N2O, which is only a small fraction of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted by vehicles. It is also monitored as part of the EPA regulatory process and considered in a vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions. For context, the average passenger vehicle emits up to 0.01 g/mi N2O, while they emit around 400 g/mi CO2 and up to 0.07 g/mi total NOx (Tier 2). Obviously we strive to reduce ALL those emissions as much as possible to address climate change and public health, since NOx is a key smog-forming pollutant, of which electrification is certainly a critical piece of the puzzle.

      • Mostlynew

        I was speaking of all three nitrogen based emissions. Spin it anyway you like