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Auto Execs Will Cry Crocodile Tears Over Fuel Economy Rollback

May 10, 2018


Auto Execs Will Cry Crocodile Tears Over Fuel Economy Rollback

Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler to Meet Friday With Trump

Expect auto executives who meet Friday with President Donald Trump to cry crocodile tears about the administration’s plans to roll back clean car standards. They are pretending to oppose a rollback – which is exactly what the automakers have been seeking since the beginning of the Trump presidency.

According to media reports, Trump is meeting Friday with executives from Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota Motor, Volkswagen and Daimler to talk about the clean car standards along with senior staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The automakers are working to do three things:

  1. Continue to press for a rollback of clean car standards, despite their popularity with the public;

  2. Separate themselves from the unpopular rollback via deceptive public statements and PR stunts at the White House; and

  3. Trick the public by claiming they want a “national standard” (which we have) and are merely seeking “additional flexibility” (code for weaker standards).

We can help you sort through fact and spin. We have been working with a coalition of groups to call on Ford and other automakers to stop working behind the scenes to roll back clean car standards. This week, we delivered a quarter million signatures to Ford Motor Company’s headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., from people nationwide who want the standards to remain in place.

On Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Public Citizen will drive a “Dirty Ford” around the White House and Washington, D.C. The 2006 Ford Focus has been outfitted with a black cloud of pollution that hovers over the roof of the car, and money spewing out of the gas tank.

“Automakers wasted no time rushing to Washington with their deregulatory wish list after Trump’s election,” said Madeline Page, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen. “Now they’re rushing to Washington, D.C., again, this time to try to distance themselves from the administration’s deeply unpopular clean cars rollback. Consumers know better and won’t be taken for a ride. The automakers are on a collision course that they charted.”

Automakers agreed to the standards

In 2011, automakers, labor groups and environmentalists stood alongside President Barack Obama as he announced new vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards, or the clean car standards, which would double fuel efficiency by 2025 and reduce 6 billion metric tons of climate pollution over the lifetime of vehicles sold between model years 2017 and 2025. Since then, the standards have saved consumers money, protected public health and led to impressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Though the automakers’ PR teams are hard at work to project an environmentally sensitive image, they have waged a multi-year campaign aimed at rolling back the clean car standards.

The automakers have laid out the loopholes they seek, which will cost consumers at the gas pump and lead to more climate pollution.

Here’s what the automakers have done to get a rollback of the standards:

  • Nov. 10, 2016: The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance) asks President-elect Trump to reopen and “adjust” the settled clean car standards.

  • Feb. 21, 2017: The Auto Alliance asks EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to revoke the final determination for clean car standards.

  • March 13, 2017: The Auto Alliance follows up the February 21 request with a legal petition. (Two days later, the EPA announces it will reopen the midterm review, delivering on the automakers’ request).

  • Sep. 6, 2017: In a public hearing on the EPA’s redetermination of the clean car standards, the Auto Alliance thanks the EPA for reopening the midterm review and presses for modifications to the program.

  • Oct. 24, 2017: According to Reuters, the Auto Alliance says “it would not stop trying to convince U.S. regulators to lower fuel efficiency mandates approved in the final weeks of the Obama administration.”

  • Feb. 7, 2018: The Auto Alliance submits a chart of studies to NHTSA for consideration in rulemaking. The list includes dubious “scientific” data that questions climate science and the link between tailpipe pollution. It was prepared by organizations and people with close industry associations and climate skeptics, and cites a study by Anthony Cox Jr. that was funded by the American Petroleum Institute.

  • The EPA’s revised final determination did not rely on any new agency analysis to demonstrate the need to reverse course on the agency’s own multi-year technical analysis, which in 2017 found that the clean car standards were appropriate. In this “new” determination, the EPA relied almost entirely on information from the auto industry, citing the Auto Alliance more than 40 times and not once mentioning the word “climate.”

Don’t be fooled:

Common soundbites we’re sure to hear from Ford, GM and their lobbyists on Friday: They want “one national standard” but they also want “additional flexibilities.”

There already is one national standard, which was agreed upon by the Obama administration, the automakers and California. In 2017, the EPA reaffirmed those targets with California and 12 other states, which adopted them through 2025. In attempting to alter the agreement, the automakers are reneging on their commitment to the national program. Automakers also may refer to this as harmonization. This “flexibility” would increase carbon pollution and cost consumers more at the pump.

Additional flexibility means different fuel economy standards, which means lower standards (the automakers certainly aren’t seeking more stringent standards). Some of the “flexibilities” more accurately described as loopholes that automakers have requested include: 1) calculating off-cycle credits retroactively; and 2) being able to increase credit swapping between cars and trucks. The first would allow automakers to bank credits for compliance from vehicles they have sold (rather than making continued fuel economy improvements). The second would allow automakers to raise the cap on credit trading between cars and trucks (so rather than ensuring fuel economy rises for both cars and trucks, this swapping would allow automakers to stall or slow fuel economy for certain vehicles due to extra credit from others).

Ford’s recent statement claiming support for the standards and GM’s open letter to employees are a thinly veiled attempt to create distance between the companies and the president’s unpopular deregulatory agenda.