Catalyst Summer 2018
First Principles

Fighting to Protect Fuel Economy Standards

By Ken Kimmell
Photo: Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo

Photo: Richard Howard

As I write this column, the Union of Concerned Scientists is gearing up for what is likely to be one of the biggest fights of the Trump era—the proposed rollback of vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards. These standards, which UCS led the charge to secure in 2012, have already improved the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks, and SUVs, and will cut carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 500 million tons by 2030, reduce oil consumption by 2.4 million barrels per day, and save consumers an average of $6,000 at the gas pump over the life of a vehicle.

Unfortunately, the reflexively anti-Obama wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency is now swinging to smash these successful standards. The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are expected to propose a new rule that stops all progress on fuel economy after 2020 and, on top of that, attempts to take away the right of California and other states to set their own stricter standards—a right California has exercised for 50 years.

We are fighting this rollback on all fronts, mobilizing our members and supporters, elected leaders in Congress, and leaders of affected states to push back as hard as we can during the public comment period that will soon open on this proposal. We are also holding carmakers accountable for seeking to renege on their commitment to the very standards they agreed to years ago when they needed federal help. Should the Trump administration issue a final decision that weakens these standards, we will take it to court, armed with a scientific record demonstrating that the standards are working as intended.

In the meantime, we need all our members and supporters to let the Trump administration and the auto industry know of the broad public support for cleaner cars. Keep an eye out for UCS action alerts over the next several months and help us stand up against this misguided rollback.

Ken Kimmell is president of Union of Concerned Scientists