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Monday, August 14, 2017

In Your Future: Higher Gasoline Prices … And Foreign Cars

Chao and Pruitt Team Up to Roll Back Fuel Standards for U.S.-Made Autos




Elaine Chao and Scott Pruitt
Elaine Chao, the secretary of the Department of Transportation, plans to take money out of your pocket if you’re in the market for a new American-made car and make foreign cars a better deal.

Chao is working with Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to roll back fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks negotiated in 2011 under former President Barack Obama. The laxer standards would be for vehicles made in 2021 to 2025.

“These standards are costly for automakers and the American people,” Pruitt said. “We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic.”

The Obama standards would regulate emissions of greenhouse gases and require automakers to manufacture cars and light-duty trucks that average 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025. Current standards require American-made cars, SUVs and light trucks to meet a combined average at least 35 miles a gallon by 2020.

About 79% of Americans and 68% of Republicans said they supported increasing federal fuel economy standards for cars and light duty trucks in a recent poll commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America.

Jack Gillis, a spokesman for the federation, said nearly half of all-new 2017 vehicles cost less to buy and fuel than their 2011 counterparts. Gillis said rolling back the standards would put U.S. car makers at a disadvantage in competing with foreign manufacturers.
“This short-sighted thinking by the administration, certain members of Congress and the auto companies ignores global market realities and consumer demand for better mileage,” Gillis said.

Making cars more expensive to drive helps oil companies who are drilling in our nation’s Permian basin in New Mexico and Texas and can worsen climate change but hurts the market for electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Transportation is now our nation’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions.


Fuel economy standards set before 2008 saved the average household about $600 a year in money that would have been spent on gasoline. The Obama administration said the rules set in 2012 would save motorists $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over life of the vehicles but cost auto industry about $200 billion over 13 years, about 3% of gross sales for new cars and light trucks during that time.


Trump ordered a review in March of the new standards for cars and trucks made in 2022-2025. The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday it may revise the fuel efficiency standards starting with the 2021 model year.


But the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told Pruitt on his first day on the job that the rules “should be reviewed and withdrawn.” Car manufacturers have bigger profit margins on heavier vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs that use more gas.


The alliance has spent about $4.2 million so far this year on lobbying. Its lobbyists include Hunter Bates and Chase Hieneman who previously both worked for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), husband of Sec. Chao.


ACTION BOX / What you can do about it


Comment online. You can also comment by mail using the docket number NHTSA-2017-0069. Mail comments to Docket Management Facility, M-30, U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590. Comments can be faxed to 202-493-2251. The deadline to comment is Aug. 25.


Call Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, at 202-366-4000 or tell her what you think on her Twitter account.


The Consumer Federation of America can be reached at 202-387-6121 or cfa@consumerfed.org