Last week, President Trump visited Ypsilanti, near Detroit, and spoke to autoworkers at the American Center for Mobility. In this talk, he discussed the possibility of repealing emissions standards that were passed during Obama’s time as president.
Trump’s motivation for repealing these standards is the loss of jobs. “It was necessary [to resume a review of greenhouse gas emissions that was started by Obama’s administration last year] because the standards were set far into the future,” he said during his speech at the ACM. “If the standards threaten auto jobs, then common sense changes could have — and should have — been made.”
However, another part of the issue seems to be automakers’ desire to produce more larger vehicles to meet the current demand. Getting rid of the fuel efficiency standards would allow automakers to continue production of these vehicles without necessarily increasing fuel efficiency or reducing emissions.
Demand for larger vehicles generally increases when gas prices are low. However, this shift in demand is short-sighted of buyers. Even if gas prices are low, selecting a more fuel efficient vehicle (provided the fuel-efficient vehicle is around the same price as a larger vehicle) is still a good way to save money throughout the life of the car.
Whether gas is two dollars per gallon or four, reducing the amount of gas you must buy will save money.
In a similar way, dropping regulations that require automakers to decrease emissions and increase fuel efficiency might temporarily please automakers (and possibly therefore Americans), but it also would discourage innovation in these areas.
John M. DiCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, shared his expertise on Yale Environment 360, an online magazine published at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
In his article, he examined Trump’s claim that fuel economy standards are killing jobs. DiCicco offers that innovation actually encourages automakers to increase jobs for both developers and skilled laborers who must manufacture the new parts and materials that will be used in the new technology.
DiCicco also claims that automakers will spend only three percent of their gross revenue from the new car and light truck market to comply with new standards from 2012-2025. Additionally, he states that automakers already had plans in place to meet these standards before the election.
Overall, if Trump decides to repeal these standards, it seems that there will be no benefit to the American people. However, there would be huge losses.
Automakers would have little incentive to create more fuel efficient vehicles (that is, until fuel prices inevitably rise again and demand shifts away from gas guzzlers).
Americans would unnecessarily pay more per mile for gas because their vehicles are not as efficient as they could be.
Air quality will suffer because vehicles are emitting more greenhouse gases than they necessarily must.
Repealing these standards would be the ultimate example of Trump’s devotion to following the short-sightedness of market trends rather than exemplifying the prudence that is necessary for a successful future.