Opinion

Trump Rolls Back U.S. Jobs and Growth by Lowering MPG Standards

We knew the Trump administration’s irrational decision to decrease fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars and trucks would hurt consumers, jobs and our economy — in addition to the damage it will do to our environment.

Now, we have an idea of just how badly American jobs will be impacted — thanks to the Trump administration’s own estimates.

The recent decision to weaken popular and highly successful fuel economy standards could result in a loss of 60,000 auto-industry jobs, according to the 978-page proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation that tries to justify such a short-sighted move.

To put that jobs number in perspective, the city of Pontiac, Mich., has a total of about 59,000 residents. Muncie, Ind., has a population of about 69,000.

Under the original fuel standards agreed to by automakers and the Obama administration in 2012, auto manufacturers are required to make vehicles that average 54.5 miles per gallon across their fleets by 2025. Carmakers agreed to the standards previously because they knew they were achievable (they have been on pace) and would be popular with consumers who wanted to pay less to fill up their tanks.

But they also knew they would be playing a dangerous waiting game if they didn’t. Already feeling the pressure to increase sales overseas, American automakers would quickly lose out to foreign competitors who are pushing higher fuel efficiency.

But apparently the current administration doesn’t think any of that is important. Instead, Trump officials think it’s better to freeze efficiency standards at about 30 miles per gallon — robbing consumers of thousands in savings at the pump, increasing pollution and setting back American auto innovation and the hundreds of thousands of current and future jobs that come with it.

In fact, the Trump administration’s job loss projections are likely low.

According to the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, which E2 recently published along with partners at the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative, there are at least 650,000 jobs in the motor vehicles sector focused on increasing fuel economy or transitioning to alternative fuels.

We may already be seeing the impacts of the Trump administration’s plan to make cars less efficient and dirtier.

Last year, the number of Americans who worked with alternative fuel vehicles — including hybrid, plug-in, electric, fuel cell/hydrogen and natural gas vehicles — declined by almost 40,000 jobs, according to the USEER report. Some of those cuts were almost certainly made in the long anticipation of this proposal and the administration’s opposition of clean energy technologies that advance electric vehicles and hybrids.

But the administration didn’t even stop there.

As if it wanted to do absolutely everything it could to stomp out U.S. auto innovation and hurt consumers at the pump, the Trump administration also announced it aims to strip states’ rights to set their own standards above the national requirement — setting up a showdown with 13 states (including California, Colorado and New York) that will add even more confusion and uncertainty to the U.S. auto industry.

These states are suing the administration to stop these rollbacks, and businesses are now pushing back, too. More than 400 business leaders, investors and other energy industry professionals have signed this letter from E2 to the Transportation Department and the EPA opposing the proposal and its carelessness.

Like those business leaders, anyone who cares about our economy and our environment should be outraged by the Trump plan to drive auto fuel efficiency standards into a ditch.

 

Bob Keefe is executive director of E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners, investors and other professionals that advocates for policies that are good for the economy and the environment.

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