October 14, 2021
Fuel Economy Standards Can be Tougher and Still Feasible
Biden's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must revise fuel economy standards to make them tougher while still feasible for cars built in 2024-2026
This month I testified at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hearing to agree with NHTSA’s conclusion that the automobile fuel economy standards set in 2020 were not the maximum feasible and that they should be revised now for model year 2024-26 passenger vehicles and light trucks. While NHTSA is moving forward to strengthen fuel efficiency standards, EPA is separately moving to strengthen greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles under the Clean Air Act. ELPC’s Ann Mesnikoff testified at the hearing on EPA’s proposal in August.
We also led a coalition of 15 Great Lakes and Midwest environmental and conservation organizations in urging NHTSA to adopt strong fuel economy standards for model years 2024-26 by finalizing a set of standards at least as strict as the set listed as Alternative 3 in the proposal. We further urge the agency not to finalize any “flexibilities” for automakers that are not required by statute and that do not result in real-world fuel economy improvements.
Strong Standards are Good for National Security, Energy Security
The sixth assessment report recently issued by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear that climate change is caused by humans and currently has devastating impacts that are only expected to worsen. And transportation is the largest source of American Greenhouse Gas Emissions, contributing 29%.
Climate change has negative impacts on the environment, agriculture, public health, and critical energy and transportation infrastructure. NHTSA can and should consider these impacts in deciding to set fuel efficiency standards.
Strong Standards Save Americans Money at the Pump, Promote Public Health
Stronger fuel economy standards mean less tailpipe pollution per mile driven, and low-income communities and communities of color tend to live closest to highways and suffer disproportionate health harms from vehicle pollution.
Fuel-efficient cars save Americans money at the gas pump, with those fuel savings outweighing any increased purchase price. Fuel-efficient cars are especially important for low-income Americans, who spend a greater proportion of their income on gasoline. Assuring that new cars sold today are as efficient as possible also means that fuel-efficient used cars will be available on the market in a few years.
Strong Standards are Feasible and Affordable for Carmakers
Strong fuel economy standards spur innovation in the auto manufacturing industry, which is an important pillar of the Midwestern economy and supports American manufacturing jobs. Cutting-edge technology will keep American automakers in a good position in the global marketplace into the future.
Again, ELPC urges NHTSA to adopt the strongest feasible standards by finalizing standards at least as strict as Alternative 3 and eliminating non-statutory loopholes that allow automakers to get credit for technologies that don’t result in better real-world fuel economy.