Issues & Insights

Trump’s Move To Ease Fuel Efficiency Rules Will Save Money – And Lives

President Donald Trump’s decision to slow the huge increases in fuel-efficiency standards put in place by the Obama administration in 2012 was met with derision and scorn by green groups, the big media and others on the left. In fact, it’s a wise move, one that will save Americans money, but more importantly, will save lives.

Trump’s action is perfectly timed. With the economy in turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, automakers will not have the means to retool, research and revamp their car lines to obey President Barack Obama’s absurdly stringent rules. Auto sales are now plunging.

Obama’s rules would have required automakers to push the Corporate Average Fuel Economy from 25.3 miles per gallon per vehicle in 2012 to 54.5 mpg by 2025. To do that, fuel efficiency had to increase about 5% a year.

Contrary to complaints in the media of Trump’s “rollback” of standards, all the new rules do is reduce the fuel efficiency gains required to 1.5% a year, rather than the unreachable 5%. So the U.S. fleet average will be 40 mpg, not 54.5, by 2025. Even so, that will still be 28% higher than Obama’s rules.

More importantly, automakers strained to meet the Obama requirements, forced to radically downsize cars and create a money-losing electric-car fleet that still requires subsidies even to exist.

Of course, everyone likes clean air. But our fuel-efficiency standards didn’t start out with that as their goal. In fact, America’s fuel-efficiency standards got their start in 1975 as a way to mitigate the impact of the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo. At the time, with oil prices surging, inflation raging and increasingly worthless dollars flooding global oil markets, it seemed like a good idea.

And the truth is, even before the new regulations went into effect, automakers were already raising their fleets’ fuel efficiency in response to the market pressures brought by a flood of fuel-stingy Japanese cars into the U.S. and rising oil prices.

Even so, as with so many other “good ideas,” this one got hijacked by special interests to become something entirely different: A way to impose a costly and wealth-destroying “green agenda” on American consumers.

It was part of a two-prong war against fossil fuels that continues to this day. The idea was to fight oil drilling and fracking in the continental U.S. on the front-end, while making cars prohibitively expensive on the back-end through ever-more burdensome regulation. It became a linchpin in the left’s anti-industrial, anti-capitalist agenda. A non-stop war on cheaper energy.

The idea gathered steam during the 1990s as the debate over global warming heated up. But it really gained traction in 2007, after a Supreme Court decision declared carbon dioxide a “pollutant.” A ridiculous decision, given that CO2 is a key and necessary part of the natural life cycle for both plants and animals. That includes humans.

Using that singularly bad high-court decision as pretext, Obama imposed his sweeping new fuel-efficiency standards on the auto industry in 2012, during his re-election campaign. At the time, he vowed that his move “to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.”

Of course, oil consumption did fall in the U.S., not because of Obama’s new CAFE standards but because frackers made natural gas a cheap substitute for crude oil as fuel.

Now, the media talk of Trump’s “rollbacks,” as if fuel-efficiency standards were going into reverse. As we noted above, that’s not the case.

Meanwhile, little-mentioned in news accounts is the fact that not only will consumers save billions of dollars from this move, but thousands of lives will be saved as well.

For despite what the green left and its media allies say, the extremely lighter cars that automakers are required to build to meet fuel-efficiency standards are inherently more dangerous.

The big media are in total denial about this. In fact, the leftist media watchdog MediaMatters calls it a “right-wing lie.”

Truth is, multiple studies show that decreasing the size of cars to achieve higher fuel efficiency leads to more deaths on our highways.

Start with the Environmental Protection Agency, which ran its own numbers. It found a $2,340 total reduction in car-ownership costs by 2029 as a result of Trump’s move. All told, societal costs would be diminished by $500 billion over that time.

What does that get us? About 12,000 fewer highway deaths from all the cars that are made from now until 2029. That’s more than 1,000 lives saved a year.

A study by Harvard University and the Brookings Institution, which can’t be called right-wing sources of disinformation, concluded that for each 100 pounds lighter a vehicle is to meet CAFE standards, roughly 440 to 789 more people die in car accidents. That’s a range of 2,200 to 3,900 lives a year.

As H. Sterling Burnett, writing in The Hill, memorably noted, “As a result, CAFE has resulted in more deaths than all U.S. soldiers lost in the Vietnam War and every U.S. military engagement since then.”

A study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2002 concluded that CAFE standards were responsible for 2,600 deaths in 1993 alone. With current standards much higher, there is no question that deaths will result. Lighter, less-sturdy cars are deadlier than larger ones. It’s common sense.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry group that actually has a serious financial interest, concluded that “Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer.” Forcing automakers to shrink cars costs lives.

That’s a big reason why a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the new rules would reduce fatalities by 3,000 and add 2.7 million in new-car sales.

This, by the way, is why suburbanites and others who drive a lot prefer big SUVs to small regular sedans. The SUVs are not subject to the same regulations as the smaller cars, and afford more protection for families. They’re far safer in crashes. That’s a fact, not right-wing propaganda.

The added costs of regulation tack on car costs, too. Since the end of the financial crisis, car prices have jumped 10%. Meanwhile, car sales in 2019 were less than 1% higher than they were in 2005, despite 11% growth in U.S. population.

So while new cars have nice safety features, mostly thanks to technology, fewer people can afford them as a share of the population.

Obama’s original 54.5 mpg standard was a pipe-dream at best.

“There isn’t any realistic way carmakers can meet this requirement without radically transforming their product lines, most particularly by slashing vehicle weight and going to more expensive all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric drive technologies,” wrote Larry Bell, a University of Houston professor who writes frequently on energy in Forbes. “In fact even the most efficient hybrids on the market today won’t comply.”

Bell wrote that in 2011, and he was dead-on accurate. Trump was wise to throttle back the CAFE standards. At a time of economic emergency, he will save Americans money. More importantly, he’ll save lives.

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17 comments

  • EV sales in America for 2019 were less than sales in 2018, even with twice the number of models available. EV sales represented a dismal 2 percent of the 17 million vehicles of all types sold in the U.S. in 2019. Despite numerous fears, concerns, and environmental questions being evaluated by the public contributing to their lack of enthusiasm toward EV’s, governments are stepping in with efforts to ban new petroleum and hybrid cars. Government involvement in our daily lives recalls the most terrifying nine words in the English language:” I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”
    Obviously, Americans continue to show their preferences for the thousands of products from petroleum derivatives and for fossil fuels in general, rather than the subsidized products from Government. The world can easily see the EIA data that documents energy consumption in America rising over the last two years from 2017 through 2018 with most of the increase coming from fossil fuels, to the amazement of Russia and the world.

    • What is your plan for Climate Change? It is already flooding cities and costing us billions of dollars.

      • Which cities are being flooded?
        I agree that government mandates are costing us a lot and that solar and wind energy is expensive. Besides these items what about climate change is costing us more? Can you be specific please.

      • Joe, nearly everything we know about the planet is based on the fact that climate changes.

        The mid-Cretaceous, a geological period that lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago, was the heyday of the dinosaurs but was also the warmest period in the past 140 million years, with temperatures in the tropics as high as 35 degrees Celsius (95-degrees Fahrenheit) and sea level 170 meters (557 feet) higher than today.

        However, little was known about the environment south of the Antarctic Circle at this time. Now, researchers have discovered evidence of a temperate rainforest in the region, such as would be found in New Zealand today. This was despite a four-month polar night, meaning for a third of every year there was no life-giving sunlight at all.

        The presence of the forest near the Antarctic Circle suggests average temperatures were around 12 degrees Celsius (53-degrees Fahrenheit) and that there was unlikely to be an ice cap at the South Pole at the time.

      • So if we completely eliminated fossil fuels, we could save billions, at the cost of trillions.

        I’m sorry, but that sounds like a really lousy trade.

      • Oceans have been rising steadily for at least 10,000 years since the last ice age. In California it was possible to walk from Point Reyes to what are now the Farallon Islands which now has water as much as 250 feet deep between these two point. This means that Native Americans were living at the bottom of what is now Pacific Ocean. San Francisco Bay was non-existent.

        Show me where the rate of this 10,000 year old sea level rise has recently changed.

      • Are those the same models being used for CV predictions? None of it has been found to be any where near correct.

  • The truth being known, zero evidence exists supporting CO2 as a significant contributor to keeping the earth warm. The budget and appropriations of the United States should never be used to fund false religions like climate change. Besides our climate is changing in no way that threatens our existence. Democrats like Obama are making human shields of American drivers with extreme mileage standards that force us into smaller and less safe vehicles. Thankfully, democrats and greens have ensured, through their selfish, partisan behavior, their political existence is in dire jeopardy!!!!

  • It makes no sense to lower MPG & say that’s :”saving money”: it’s not since people would have to buy more gasoline! Also: making cars spew more pollution means: more respiratory illnesses–like asthma & others–and it escalates climate change. Loosening these regulations are only good for one industry: fossil fuels–an industry we need to be moving away from as quickly as possible (while helping workers in that industry transition to clean energy jobs—that re growing faster than extractive industry jobs are). It’s a win win win for public health, planet health and jobs of the future,.

    • Read the article again. Obama’s administration imposed a fuel improvement rate. President Trump’s administration lowered that rate, but did not do away with it. Forty gallons per mile is not chump’s change when you consider that many cars on the road get 30 mpg or less.

      My crystal ball says that many employers/CEOs have woke up to the fact that employees can really, really work at home using conferencing software. We can thank the CV, if there is anything thankful to be said about it. If proven correct then there will be a significant number of employees working at home in the future which means less gasoline consumption which means lower prices.

    • After 1900, the world has been demanding more and more of those thousands of products from petroleum derivatives that account for all medications and medical equipment, electronics and communications, and airline and merchant ship transportation. Moving away from fossil fuels will place us back in the 1800’s with longevity around 40 years of age, and an increase in weather related fatalities. And by the way, electricity came after fossil fuels, as all the parts of wind turbines and solar panels are made from those derivatives from petroleum.

    • you are [deliberately?] overlooking the total costs involved
      reduce the price of a vehicle or prevent the cost from rising by 5K$ can purchase a lot of gasoline
      a higher likelihood of surviving a wreck or mitigating injury will keep insurance premiums down

    • Speaking of respiratory problems, it is the greens that are against fracking which has the potential to give us more methane to produce cars that run on natural gas which produces mostly CO2 and water at the exhaust pipe.

      It is the greens that are against nuclear fission which produces zero CO2 and has the potential to make EVs meaningful if you forget the destructive rare-earth mining necessary for batteries and the yet unknown disposal issues of spent batteries.

      Greens are dangerous for the environment.

  • A green enigma for me is why greens are not behind electrical production by nuclear energy. Instead they are spoiling the land with solar panel farms and wind turbines which are also destructive to wildlife and natural habitats. Putting panels on existing structures is one thing, but locating them in areas where they harm wildlife is another.

    Then you have to address that fact that without giga-normous battery installations we cannot power our economy with solar and wind because it is too unreliable unlike a nuclear plant which is up over 95% of the time and runs 24/7 the other time.

    Then solar panels and wind turbines and batteries have a life span. What do we do with millions of pounds of waste that will be generated on a regular basis?

    EVs start to make some sense when nuclear power is incorporated. When it’s solar panels and wind turbines it’s a non-starter.

    • you are making common errors

      leftists seldom have any interest in a fact that conflicts with their feeeeeeelings, I am becoming more convinced most cannot even recognize facts from propaganda — this accounts for most of the ‘foot soldiers’ in the movement
      there is no point in arguing with someone who has renounced reason. I do post rebuttals to prevent the nonsense from remaining unchallenged for an onlooker and there is always a non-zero chance that I might hit the final argument that makes them think [that was sarc, a mathematician gives a non-zero chance to the sun going nova at precisely noon tomorrow]

      the lower number but far more dangerous are the ones that push this as most of them know very well that their stated agenda is not attainable, but advocating it is their pathway to power

  • So why are we forcing the standards to increase to 40mpg? Why not leave them as they are now?

  • Do the math. H, Sterling Burret that was quoted in this article that, “As a result, CAFE has resulted in more deaths than all U.S. soldiers lost in the Vietnam War and every U.S. military engagement since then.” CAFE was enacted in 2012, or 8 years ago. If we use the highest deaths per year of 3900, that calculates to 31,200. There were 58,2020 total US soldiers killed in Vietnam. That is 27,000 more lives lost than can be accounted for from CAFE. Check your information for accuracy before you publish it!

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