In 2012, President Obama enacted new fuel emission rules that required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025. The new rules were designed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and were projected to save Americans $1.7 trillion in fuel costs. These new fuel emission standards were a huge win for clean air advocates and consumers. Even Michigan’s large auto companies — initially skeptical of the new standards — have adapted and come to embrace these standards. Companies have made long-term plans and adapted to these new standards, which is why the Trump administration’s sudden announcement that they would be rolling back these standards is so alarming and disruptive at the worst possible time.
The Trump administration’s rule will cost consumers billions of dollars at a time when Americans are losing their jobs at a record pace. A Consumer Reports analysis finds the administration’s lower standard will increase fuel costs and cost American consumers a total of $300 billion in net losses. Even the administration’s own draft economic analyses of the rule showed it could hurt consumers by forcing them to buy more gas.
This decision by President Trump also defies logic to roll back protections that are proven to improve air quality and reduce pollution in the middle of a pandemic that causes severe respiratory problems in people of all ages. Again, the proposed rollbacks could not come at worse time for Americans grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak.
The president’s actions have created even more uncertainty for automakers, auto suppliers and the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on the auto industry. Michigan’s economy is facing staggering losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the president’s actions are likely to make this bad situation even worse.
So who is the big winner if the Trump administration rolls back these important standards? Simple: Big oil and gas companies who have been lobbying for years to protect their profit, protect the status quo and keep America dependent on foreign oil and gas.
The fact is Americans are demanding more efficient, cleaner vehicles. Poll after poll shows Americans want stronger fuel efficiency standards. Michigan is home to some of the biggest automotive companies in the world. Our state is poised to be a leader in these new fuel efficient electric and autonomous vehicle technologies. Slamming on the brakes now will be devastating for Michigan’s economy and a setback for public health.
This is a time in our history when uncertainty is at an all-time high and many of us are focused on the crisis before us. At the same time, we need to plan for our future as a state and that’s why protecting these fuel efficiency standards is so important for Michigan’s economy and our public health. We urge leaders in both parties, those in the business community and workers to raise their voices against this ill-conceived and irresponsible plan by the president.
—Salah Ali is an electrical engineer who works in the auto industry.