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Luke Tonachel’s Blog

U.S. House Bill Increases Oil Dependence, Pollution and Pain at the Gas Pump

Luke Tonachel

Posted July 17, 2012 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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The U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to vote next week on measures that would stop progress on new automobile efficiency and pollution standards. Under standards that are scheduled to be finalized this summer, new cars would get double the efficiency, consume half and much fuel and emit half as much carbon pollution as automobiles on the road today. If supporters of the House bill have their way, however, consumers, the environment, our energy security and our economy would suffer.

The House is scheduled to vote next week on the “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act" (H.R. 4078) – a bill that, among other things, imposes a moratorium on issuing virtually any new regulations as long as unemployment remains above 6%, regardless of the substance of such regulations or support for them. The joint Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency proposed 54.5 mpg fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for model years 2017 to 2025 is just one example of a standard that would be blocked by this bill. The 54.5 mpg standards are a continuation of standards in place for 2012 to 2016 that are already saving drivers money at the pump

Like many regulations, the fuel efficiency standards are necessary to meet the nation’s goals, in this case for reduced oil dependence and carbon pollution. It’s especially perplexing that these rules would be attacked when considering their broad base of support. The 54.5 mpg standards are supported by automakers, prominent Republicans and Democrats, environmental organizations, national security groups, economists, business leaders, small business owners, the United Auto Workers, and consumer advocacy groups.

The standards deliver what Americans want: cars that sip instead of guzzle fuel. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, Americans rank fuel economy as the “most important car buying factor.”

Fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards also create jobs. Money saved on gasoline can be spent on other goods and services, increasing jobs across the economy. A recent study estimates that 570,000 jobs will be created by the 54.5 mpg standards.  

About 50,000 of those jobs will be created in the auto industry to develop and manufacture fuel-saving technologies to meet the standards. Congress just has to look at today’s rebounding auto industry for proof that strong auto efficiency standards create jobs.  Today, over 150,000 workers in 300 companies across 43 states are making clean, efficient vehicle parts to meet the current 2012 - 2016 standards.

Auto sales are growing too. To meet the 2012 – 2016 standards automakers are producing more fuel-efficient vehicles across all vehicle classes, making compact cars, crossovers, SUVs and pickups that all go farther on a gallon of gas. Compared to just three years ago, today’s dealer showrooms have twice as many popular fuel-efficient models. Despite a sluggish economy, consumers are back for better efficiency and auto sales are robust. 

If Congress were to prohibit the 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards from being implemented, consumers would be cheated. Billions of dollars in fuel savings would be wasted. Also, in 2030 alone, U.S. energy security would be challenged by 1.7 million barrels per day of greater oil consumption and our climate would be strained by another 297 million metric tonnes of carbon pollution. If the House passes H.R. 4078, it will make a political choice that fails the American people.

Blog updated on 7/17, 6:10 pm to reflect the fact that H.R. 4078 halts new regulations when unemployment is above 6%.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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