Trump Cuts Obama-Era Fuel Efficiency Standards By Half, An Economic Risk With Environmental Costs
On Tuesday, March 31st, President Donald Trump delivered yet again on one of his more cryptic campaign promises—to roll back environmental policies set during the Obama Administration in order to boost the fossil-fuel economy. This time, his instrument of anti-ecological attack is the automotive industry, which he seeks to send back to the carbon spewing dark ages at the peril of destroying all life on earth.
The new standards being pushed into action are regressive from the 2012-initiated Obama standards. Eight years ago, President Obama called for automakers to increase efficiency by 5% and aim for a 54 mpg average on vehicles. Trump’s new plan reduces that efficiency to 2.5% and aims instead for a more conservative 40 mpg. The EPA and the Department of Transportation recently wrote up and expressed support of Trump’s amended standards.
The stated rationale behind this change, according to Trump and his colleagues, is that it will help the economy. These standards will decrease the price of cars by an estimated $1,000, in order to incentivize people to buy newer and safer vehicles. Meanwhile, it is meant to increase manufacturing and savings and production costs of automakers. This is probably why car companies such as General Motors, Toyota, and Chrysler champion Trump’s new standards—they buy into the trickle-down economic ideal that Republicans are also promoting.
Not only dangerous for the Environment, also Zero Economic Benefit
Many, however, question the validity behind Trump’s economic optimism. For starters, under a 40 mpg average, drivers will have to pay more for gas. According to Consumer Reports, car owners will have to spend $3,200 more on fuel over the course of a vehicles lifetime, dwarfing the original $1,000 savings at the time of purchase.
Meanwhile, the plan could hurt car manufacturers operating in international markets. Just because the United States remains lax in its fuel efficiency standards does not mean that the rest of the world will follow suit. Gas-guzzling, carbon-spewing cars might be fair game in America, but they may not meet legal requirements overseas. Thus, American-made cars may fail to turn profits in foreign markets, causing financial strife and employee layoffs stateside.
And then there is the environmental cost. Gas powered, ICE vehicles are the greatest contributors to carbon emissions in the world right now. According to the New York Times, Trump’s new plan would allow cars to emit almost a billion more tons of CO2 over the course of their lifetimes. While the long-term financial price of these increased emissions is unclear (yet probably very expensive), their consequences will inevitably extend far beyond monetary concerns.
Using Economic “Stimulus” as an excuse to gut Environmental Safeguards is the New Anti-Eco War Tactic
Carbon dioxide trapped in our atmosphere is the leading contributor to climate change. The planet is already in a dangerous situation with more parts-per-million than what is ecologically sound. Industrially, the world demands a turn away from fossil fuels and a decrease in emissions.
Trump’s new plan, however, digresses from the planet’s urgent environmental needs. The penalties could include biodiversity loss, extreme temperature shifts, natural disasters, rising sea levels, and more. Even in shorter terms, greater emissions can compromise air quality, leading to increased illnesses and health issues—something that the world certainly does not need under the current circumstances.
While Trump has his powerful profit-driven supporters for these new standards, many are pushing back against him. Most notably, the state of California continues to aim for its own emissions standards that are far more stringent than the federal ones. The Trump administration deemed California setting its own standards unconstitutional back in September, but the Golden State has not given up the fight, launching lawsuits and municipal plans to decrease its statewide fossil fuel reliance.
Environmental groups and electric car manufacturers also disagree with the President—BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen have already struck deals with California and twenty-three additional states opposing Trump’s federal standards are expected to join Cali in filing suits against the administration.
With everything America is fighting right now, environmental issues have seemed to take a temporary backseat to more immediate matters. This late addition to Trump’s ongoing list of environmental rollbacks comes at a precarious time, but it should not be overlooked. Despite everything going on, the climate continues changing and the earth continues warming. When the pandemic passes, environmental problems will still be here. The least we can do is make sure they do not gain an upper hand while we briefly focus our attentions elsewhere.
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