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Trump MPG Rollback Will Hurt Consumers, Critics Say

The Trump administration plans to roll back fuel-economy rules by the Obama administration that would have made cars and trucks burn less fuel.

The Trump administration’s move this week to to scale back an Obama-era goal to boost fuel efficiency standards for automobiles is drawing criticism from environmental groups as being costly to consumers.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cite economic and safety reasons for putting the brakes on the Obama-era mandate that cars and light-duty trucks average 42 miles per gallon by 2025. The agencies are giving the public until Oct. 2 to weigh in on the change.


The Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards require miles-per-gallon data to appear on their price stickers for new cars and trucks.


Josh Craft, a lobbyist for the advocacy group Utah Clean Energy, said the rollback will affect Utah residents’ wallets, as well as environmental quality.


“Fuel economy standards have been a win-win – something that’s helped customers save money on fuel costs and address the impacts of emissions from vehicles, especially those from climate change,” he said.


The average fuel economy for light-duty cars and trucks in 2017 was 25.2 miles per gallon, according to the Colorado-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). Stricter CAFE standards would have meant vehicles would be burning less fuel and less of the pollution blamed for climate change.


SWEEP estimates that Utahns will use an additional 2.5 billion gallons of fuel because of the rollback. Residents will also spend more than $3,000 on average buying that gas and diesel.


“Not everyone’s going to pay that much more,” said Craft. “But [for] the average customer, it’s going to go up a fair amount.”


The Trump administration has estimated that 1,000 lives will be saved with the change, because vehicles will be studier, safer and less vulnerable in traffic accidents. The administration also contends that Americans will save money on vehicle ownership.


The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative think tank, favors the change.


“In reality, this is an expansion of American citizens’ freedom to purchase the vehicles of their choice and not have to sacrifice safety in an attempt to control the uncontrollable,” said Gregory R. Wrightstone, a Heartland Institute policy advisor.


In a recent poll released by the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy and Muhlenberg College's Polling Institute, 64 percent of Americans support the Obama administration’s higher fuel- efficiency targets.


Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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