Analysis: Pushed by Detroit automakers, President Trump seeks to roll back momentum for cleaner cars

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As the Trump Administration approaches the end of its first 100 days, Fresh Energy still stands by its original assessment of the election: clean energy momentum and market forces are now too great to turn back the clock, whether the President accepts the world’s climate and energy realities or not. As the Administration works to delay, reverse, or roll back progress on energy efficiency and cleaner energy, we have to resist these roll backs, and continue to support market rules that push climate and energy solutions forward.

Both sides agreed to check in at the midpoint to determine how it was going. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency looked at all the evidence—progress on more efficient cars, engineering innovations, cost/benefit analyses, environmental imperatives—to determine whether to lower (or raise) the bar for cars sold from 2022-2025. That analysis was completed in the days before the inauguration, and with reasonable assumptions, the finding was that the industry could successfully meet the standard of averaging 36 miles per gallon for that period, up from an average of 25 miles per gallon today.

Immediately after President Trump’s inauguration, a push began to upend the government’s finding, and now has Trump’s commitment to review all the evidence again, presumably to come to a lower fuel-efficiency goal. As a country, this is the wrong choice. With all the great progress made bringing down emissions from power plants, for the first time since records have been kept, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation are now greater than those from power plants. We should not be going backwards on auto efficiency, and the public is not on Trump’s side on this issue. During the 2016 election, there was not a big public outcry in support of policies that would make our air more polluted, increase health impacts from more toxins released into the air, or increase our national security risk by relying more and more on oil from the Middle East to power American cars.

At FuelEconomy.gov, for the 2017 model year, there are already 29 cars sold in the U.S that get over 50 miles per gallon, and thanks to California and eight other states that also require a percentage of cars to be zero emission, 24 of those cars run, or mostly run, on electricity and are rated at a fuel economy equivalent to more than 80 miles per gallon. The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq plug-in is tops, at 136 miles per gallon equivalent, combined city and highway driving. Ten Fresh Energy staff and board members drive cars with efficiency better than 80 miles per gallon equivalent.

Fresh Energy is working hard with local partners to ramp up sales of electric vehicles, which have no tailpipe emissions and help Minnesota power its transportation with homegrown energy instead of oil and gas. Minnesota’s state government has already committed to purchase 30 all-electric Chevy Bolts, the first mass-produced car to get over 110 miles per gallon equivalent and get over 235 miles to a full charge. We are working to get every electric company in Minnesota to have basic car charging information on their websites so car salespeople can send buyers to the right place for quick answers on charging their new electric car. Great River Energy is supporting that work and is also the proud sponsor of an “All-Electric Room” at the Twin Cities Auto Show. And at the invitation of the Rocky Mountain Institute, we are pulling together a high-level team to do a three-day deep-dive strategy session in April about how Minnesota can be a great electric car leader.

Reopening and potentially rolling back vehicle standards in the U.S. threatens to slam the breaks on American innovation and put us behind other countries, who are embracing low emission vehicle technology. We don’t believe most Americans want that. Fresh Energy will continue to advocate for sensible policies that help our country, and Minnesota, do better.

Fresh Energy recognizes that our readers are concerned about federal actions and their impacts on Minnesota. We will provide regular insights on key issues – and what we can and must do at the state and regional level to continue the transition to a clean energy economy. Check our March Capitol Update for the latest on Fresh Energy’s work at the Minnesota legislature.  

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