The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to massively roll back its undeniably successful car greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards while totally ignoring the technical and scientific facts, as well as its world-renowned federal, career staff. This is unprecedented and will go down as one of the most anti-science and anti-transparency actions in agency history.
Over the previous decade, EPA’s technical staff published nearly 10,000 pages of analysis strongly supporting the car GHG standards. The comprehensive and sophisticated federal automotive technology analysis was developed using new tools recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, which had never been used by any regulatory agency.
Now, instead of building on this historic work, EPA political leadership rubber-stamped a biased analysis of both the GHG and fuel economy standards cobbled together by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide a political rationale for what is essentially an eight-year freeze of the GHG standards.
Some experts have called these standards the single most important action taken by any country to address climate change, given that transportation has now overtaken utilities as the largest source of U.S. GHG emissions. And reducing oil consumption lowers our trade deficit and increases national security.
While the current standards get a little tougher each year, the DOT proposal authorized by EPA proposes to freeze the GHG standards at today’s levels through 2026. Allowing automakers to do absolutely nothing for eight years will increase GHG emissions by nearly 900 million metric tons over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold in those years and worsen climate change.
Rolling back the standards will force consumers to pay more for gasoline, thereby taking money from consumers’ pockets and giving it to the oil companies and OPEC. Low-income Americans will be hurt the most, as they pay a higher percentage of their income for gasoline. And good-paying technology jobs at the automakers and suppliers will decline.
The good news is that the recent proposal is not legally binding and must go through a full public rulemaking process. Accordingly, this is the time for the American people to demand that successful car GHG and fuel economy standards not only be maintained at their current levels through 2025 but strengthened for the future.
Jeff Alson worked for 40 years at the EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Published in The Hill, August 2, 2018.