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Go ‘Forward Not Backward’: Environmental and Consumer Groups Launch Campaign Calling on Ford, Volkswagen and Other Automakers to Drop Efforts to Roll Back Clean Car Standards

Sierra Club * Public Citizen * Greenpeace * Environment America * Safe Climate Campaign

Oct. 25, 2017

Go ‘Forward Not Backward’: Environmental and Consumer Groups Launch Campaign Calling on Ford, Volkswagen and Other Automakers to Drop Efforts to Roll Back Clean Car Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ford, Volkswagen and other automakers should live up to their promises and stop trying to undo popular fuel economy and vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards, known as clean car standards, a coalition of groups said today when announcing its “Forward Not Backward” campaign.

The groups – the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Greenpeace, Safe Climate Campaign and Environment America – called on automakers to stop working behind the scenes with the Trump administration to roll back the popular standards. The rules, which were finalized in 2012 and set mile-per-gallon goals for automakers to meet by model year 2025, have curbed climate-causing pollution, saved consumers money at the pump, prompted automakers to innovate, improved health and increased national security.

In September, the coalition sent letters to the CEOs of 20 automakers, calling on them to “discontinue any and all efforts to weaken or delay the implementation of U.S. Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards.” So far, only Ford and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have sent responses. They tout their green practices but did not address requests to halt their rollback efforts.

The groups will engage and mobilize thousands of supporters to urge automakers to support the standards. 

In 2011, automakers, labor groups and environmentalists stood beside President Barack Obama as he announced the new clean car standards. The rules already are delivering benefits and by 2025 will ensure that:

● Tailpipe climate emissions are cut in half and vehicle fuel efficiency is doubled.
● Individual consumers will save $3,200 to $5,700 (PDF) in fuel costs over the life of their vehicle.
Six billion metric tons of tailpipe climate pollution – the equivalent of a year’s worth of pollution from 150 power plants – will not be released.
● Oil consumption will be reduced by 12 billion barrels.

However, just days after the 2016 election, Ford and other automakers asked President-elect Donald Trump to review the program. After several meetings with auto executives, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced plans to reopen the midterm review of the standards, which the Obama administration completed in 2016. Reopening the review would open the door to weakening the standards.

But the rules are popular. Earlier this year, nearly 150,000 supportive public comments by advocates, as well as comments by Fortune 500 companies, health organizations, and environmental and consumer groups, were submitted during the public comment periods. That is in addition to more than 300,000 supportive comments submitted during the original 2016 evaluation.

A Natural Resources Defense Council poll found that 95 percent of Americans want automakers to continue to improve fuel economy, and 79 percent want the government to increase standards. Moreover, a 2016 technical assessment by the EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board shows that automakers are meeting the standards more affordably and faster than predicted.

“Automakers should keep their word. The fuel economy standards – which they agreed to – will save drivers money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut the carbon pollution driving global climate change,” said U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “Automakers acknowledged these benefits and promised to make more efficient, cleaner vehicles. That’s why it’s so important to call out the Auto Alliance for working hand-in-hand with climate deniers like Scott Pruitt to go back on that promise.”

“Rolling back the clean car standards would threaten American families across the country,” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. “To keep our air clean and our climate safe, we must put clean car standards in the fast lane, but Ford and Trump are trying to put vital climate and consumer protections in reverse, endangering our communities and our economy.”

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, added, “The automakers and the Trump administration are conspiring to undo clean car standards that will save consumers thousands of dollars at the pump over the lifetime of each vehicle they purchase. That the Trump administration is willing to drain billions from consumers’ collective pockets is yet more evidence of the complete corporate takeover of our government. Consumers will not stand by quietly – we’re going to hold the automakers accountable, starting with Ford and Volkswagen.”

Added Leila Deen, projects director at Greenpeace USA, “If we are to fight climate change, we need tangible action from companies right now. That’s why we’re calling on Ford to fulfill its promise to the American people and to the planet. We think it’s only reasonable for a company that has claimed to be an environmental leader to publicly support strong fuel efficiency standards. As these standards also reduce air pollution and help hardworking Americans save money, they’re a no brainer!”

“We envision a 100 percent clean energy future with innovation from Ford and other leaders at the center of it. Zero emission vehicles, zero fossil fuel vehicles are where we need to be heading, not going backward to the antiquated, wasteful technology of a past century. That future begins with Ford publicly supporting the clean car standards,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America.

“Our new campaign is targeting Ford because it is colluding with Donald Trump to attack clean car standards, dragging its feet on technology and hypocritically claiming to be environmentally responsible,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign. “We’re not sitting back while Ford, Trump and Pruitt plot to increase auto pollution.”