Consumers Union: Draft Fuel Economy Bill Increases Costs to Consumers at the Pump

Experts

Policy Counsel, Energy and Environment
Senior Communications Associate, Energy Policy

May 9, 2017

WASHINGTON – InsideEPA is reporting that Senator James Inhofe is circulating a draft bill that would weaken the consumer benefits of the federal fuel economy standards. Billed as an effort to harmonize the different federal standards, the draft legislation would in fact help meet a key automotive industry goal of getting “extra” credit for vehicles sold years ago. These credits would reduce incentives for future innovation in fuel economy technology and ultimately burden consumers with higher fuel costs and harmful emissions.

“The only thing this draft bill harmonizes with is the auto industry’s calls to roll back the standards,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports. “This bill would move the country backward in our efforts to improve the fuel efficiency of our nation’s automotive fleet and reduce harmful pollution that threatens public health.”

The bill offers automakers retroactive credit for improvements already made in earlier model years. The excess credits would dampen future improvements to automotive efficiency, forcing consumers to pay more at the pump. The bill would also allow manufacturers to transfer credits from cars to trucks, reducing the need to deploy technologies in trucks and SUVs that have the most room for improvement and have been improving the fastest.

“Americans who buy trucks would be impacted the most,” continued Baker-Branstetter. “Our research has shown that under current standards, truck owners would save $4,800 over the life of their vehicle. These savings are likely to be much lower if this draft bill is approved.”

This draft bill is emerging as the White House has signaled its intentions to delay fuel efficiency targets set for 2022-2025 and recently proposed a massive cut to EPA’s auto emissions testing lab that has uncovered misleading fuel efficiency labeling by a number of automakers in recent years. Combined, these efforts are a significant shift in favor of industry demands and puts consumers at risk of increased fuel costs and exposure to harmful emissions.

“The fuel economy program has been a success that has increased the number of fuel efficient vehicles available to consumers and saved consumers billions of dollars at the pump, even as the industry has experienced record sales and profits. Rolling back these efforts would mean consumers would spend more on fuel, rather than on local goods and services that boost the broader economy.”

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Contact: Jason Kuruvilla, jason.kuruvilla@consumer.org, 202-719-5923