Press Release

Rollback of Fuel Efficiency Standards Will Harm U.S. Economy and Public Health for Years

March 31, 2020

Washington, DC — The Trump administration’s rollback of clean car standards, announced Tuesday, will increase air pollution and hurt our health and the environment for years to come.

“At a time when the nation is focused on the COVID-19 emergency, this is a completely unnecessary and destructive action that will cost Americans at the pump and in the air we breathe,” said ACEEE executive director Steven Nadel. “Any longer-term policies adopted now should help secure the future health of our economy and environment. This rollback does the opposite.”

The final rule rolls back clean car standards slated for model year 2021-2026 vehicles. By hitting the brakes on corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions standards, the administration will cause the owner of an average model year 2025 vehicle to fill up the gas tank 62 more times over the life of the vehicle.

With Saudi Arabia and Russia locked in an oil price war and Americans sharply curtailing their driving as they heed calls to stay home, spending on gasoline has dropped for now. But the rollback of standards will increase fuel consumption and emissions for decades to come.

“This is a major setback in addressing climate change, and that’s something we can’t afford,” said ACEEE senior fellow Therese Langer. “It’s also going to hurt the competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry when the nation and the world recover from the current crisis.”

As expected, the administration is calling for a 1.5% nominal annual increase in fuel efficiency — far less than the 5% annual increase that was slated to take effect.

ACEEE estimates that the administration’s action will add at least 131 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to our air annually by 2035 and increase U.S. fuel consumption by 11.7 billion gallons per year. That is the equivalent of adding nearly 29 million cars to our roads.

The new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) flies in the face of science, years of technical analysis by the agencies’ own experts — and common sense. In addition to saving Americans money at the pump, creating jobs, and protecting our health and the environment, vehicle efficiency standards boost the competitiveness of the domestic auto industry in a global market moving toward lower-emitting vehicles.

The rollback of federal standards follows the administration’s revocation last fall of EPA’s Clean Air Act waiver allowing California and 13 other states to maintain stronger standards. At the same time, DOT asserted that CAFE standards preempt those state programs. States have already challenged those earlier actions in court, and more lawsuits are expected to follow now that the rule is finalized.


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