WASHINGTON – Today the Trump administration is set to release a final rule rolling back auto fuel efficiency standards, which will let cars and light trucks emit 1 billion more tons, or more, of carbon pollution over the lifetime of the vehicle fleet than under the standards set by the Obama administration.
“This is one of the most reckless and unconscionable decisions made by any president, and doing it in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis is doubly insidious,” said EWG President Ken Cook.
The New York Times said the Obama-era fuel standards were the single largest effort by the federal government to fight global warming and the health hazards of carbon dioxide emissions. Several automakers supported the standards, which required them to increase fuel efficiency to 54 miles per gallon by 2025. Under the Trump rollback, vehicle fleets will be required to average about 40 miles per gallon.
Air pollution from automobiles is one of the major drivers of the climate crisis and can cause or worsen serious health problems, including damage to the heart, lungs and respiratory system, putting people at greater risk of falling ill from viruses, including COVID-19.
The Trump administration’s own estimates show the increase in air pollution from tailpipes as a result of the rollback will mean more Americans will die, two people briefed on the rule told The Washington Post. The Post cited an analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund that the rollback will increase tailpipe emissions by 1.5 billion tons over five years.
“These achievable mileage standards would combat climate change and reduce the number of early deaths caused by tailpipe pollution,” said Cook. “At a moment when all Americans are at increased risk from the coronavirus, the president has once again put the profits of the fossil fuel and auto industries ahead of public health.”
President Trump and his administration have overseen an unprecedented assault on federal policies aimed at reducing industrial pollution from tailpipes, power plants and coal, oil and natural gas extraction operations.
The administration has repealed, or is in the process of repealing, at least 95 different environmental rules, with 25 having a direct and adverse impact on the nation’s air quality, and dozens of others that will indirectly increase air pollution.
“Let’s also be clear that leading auto companies cravenly pressed Trump immediately after the election for relief from the Obama-era standards, including companies taxpayers bailed out in 2009 during the financial meltdown,” Cook said. “While many in the auto industry believe Trump’s deregulation hawks have taken things too far, their initial lobbying triggered this process. Those companies are fully and equally responsible for Trump’s rollback.”
Less than a month after Trump took office, the Auto Alliance, a lobby group representing the 17 largest companies that sell cars in the U.S., wrote then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt, urging him to roll back the Obama mileage standards. As the EPA worked toward the rollback finalized today, Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen signed an agreement with the State of California to continue to raise mileage standards to levels similar to those called for in the Obama rule. But Toyota, GM, Fiat Chrysler and other companies sided with the Trump administration’s efforts to take away California’s right to set its own tougher mileage standards.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.