Five Things You Need to Know About the U.S. Clean Car Standards
America’s Clean Car Standards are one of our biggest success stories, yet the Trump Administration is preparing to dramatically weaken them.
News reports say the Trump Administration is also taking aim at state leadership on clean cars, by preparing to challenge California’s and 12 other states’ authority to maintain more protective standards.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Clean Car Standards protect our health and our climate
The transportation sector is now America’s largest contributor of climate pollution. It is also a significant source of harmful soot and smog-causing pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the Clean Car Standards would reduce climate pollution by six billion tons over its lifetime and cut other dangerous air pollutants as well. Six billion tons is how much climate pollution America emits in a year – from all sources and all sectors.
EDF’s own recent analysis shows that more than two billion tons of climate pollution reductions are at risk under the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of the U.S. standards.
The American Lung Association and twelve other public health organizations have all underscored the importance of maintaining protective clean cars standards.
2. State leadership is under attack
California’s and 12 other states’ vehicle standards are firmly rooted in the fabric of the Clean Air Act, apply to a third of U.S. car sales, and have long provided effective protections for millions of Americans.
For more than half a century, the Clean Air Act has contained express authority for California to set more protective standards to meet its compelling air pollution problems. The Clean Air Act also allows other states to adopt and enforce California’s standards – currently, twelve other states and the District of Columbia have done so.
State leadership has long played a key role in spurring the development and deployment of clean car solutions, like smog-fighting catalytic converters, and has resulted in enormous health benefits for Americans across the country.
Today a third of U.S. new car sales are covered by the coalition of states that have committed to protective clean car standards.
Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testified to Congress that these states’ clean car standards were not in imminent danger. Pruitt was asked if EPA intends to begin proceedings to revoke California’s authority to set its own clean cars standards. He replied, “not at present.” (See C-SPAN video at 1:49:56)
But one day later, news reports said the Trump Administration would begin challenging California’s standards “within days.”
Such an attack by the Trump Administration is contrary to law and would result in substantial harm to Americans through increased air pollution and lost financial savings from decreased fuel use.
3. Millions of Americans save money because of the Clean Car Standards
The Clean Car Standards are a win-win – in addition to reducing pollution, they save people money at the gas pump.
Over the lifetime of the standards, American families and businesses will save more than a trillion dollars.
Drivers are already benefiting from our existing Clean Car Standards. For example, each Ford F-150 truck bought in 2015 uses about 180 fewer gallons of gas a year than earlier models. That saves its owner eight trips to the gas station and up to $700 per year, depending on the price of fuel.
In my state – Colorado – rolling back the clean car standards would deprive the average Coloradan of up to $5,000 in fuel savings over the life of their car or truck, depending on oil prices. We’d also lose the tremendous climate and health benefits associated with these protections.
For the 86 percent of Americans who finance their car or truck with a five-year loan, the Clean Car Standards provide immediate real world cost savings from cleaner, more efficient vehicles. This is true even if gas prices start going down.
4. Many automakers and suppliers don’t want this rollback and have urged the Trump administration to work with California
A rollback of our Clean Car Standards would create discord to no one’s benefit.
For example, Ford and Honda have urged the Trump administration not to dismantle the effective partnership between EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and California that has given automakers a single national standard to meet.
Honda stated “we do not support their rollback,” and noted the importance of “maintain[ing] consistency between federal standards and those adopted by California.”
Ford also publicly disavowed the rollback and the attack on California, saying “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” Ford also stated “we want one set of standards nationally.”
James Verrier, the CEO of Borg Warner – a leading component supplier based in Michigan – noted that his company wants to maintain and build on America’s protective Clean Car Standards, saying “do not slow down the pace on CAFE standards” and “we’ve come a long way as an industry and we need to keep going forward. Don’t go backwards and don’t slow down.”
The Automotive Technology Leadership Group, a coalition of five automotive trade associations, recently issued a set of principles that included their position on this issue. They said “it is very important that there be a coordinated national light duty vehicle program setting fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards that continue to make progress on reducing emissions and oil consumption while saving consumers money at the gas pump.” The group also urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and EPA to work with California.
5. We have the know-how to exceed these standards
Improvements under our existing Clean Car Standards are both technically feasible and affordable. Automakers and suppliers are developing and deploying innovative technologies faster than anticipated when the standards were finalized.
EPA, the Department of Transportation, and the California Air Resources Board conducted an exhaustive technical review of the auto industry’s ability to meet the 2022 to 2025 model year standards. They found extensive evidence that the automotive industry can meet those standards at lower costs than predicted when the standards were initially finalized in 2012.
Since the Clean Cars Standards began in 2012, we have roughly doubled the number of SUVs that get 25 miles per gallon or more, the number of cars that get 30 miles per gallon or more, and the number of cars that get 40 miles per gallon or more.
Today there are already more than 100 car, SUV, and pickup models on the market that meet standards set for 2020 and beyond.
If any changes are made, the standards should be strengthened.