Motor Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

CFA Joins in Lawsuit Against Trump Administration’s Effort to Roll Back Fuel Economy Standards

Eviscerating the Current Standards Will Cost Consumers Billions of Dollars

Washington, D.C. – On February 14, 2019, the Consumer Federation of America filed a ‘Friend of the Court’ brief with the DC Circuit in a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought by the California Attorney General, 16 other states and the District of Columbia. This suit is intended to halt the Administration’s ill-conceived plan to substantially weaken fuel economy standards for cars, SUVs and light duty trucks.

Last April, the Trump Administration initiated an effort designed to roll back reasonable fuel economy standards that would gradually increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles from model years 2021 to 2025. These are the standards agreed upon by an extraordinary group of stakeholders including 13 automakers, unions, environmentalists and consumer advocates.

“CFA has been championing higher fuel economy standards for over ten years because gasoline is a major household expense. In fact, right now the average household spends about two thousand dollars per year on gas. The gradually increasing standards currently in place will significantly reduce this household expenditure which is why in every poll CFA has conducted during the past ten years, consumers have favored keeping those standards in place”, said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Executive Director and author of The Car Book.

CFA’s Amicus Brief Counters the EPA’s Flawed Rationale for Rolling Back Fuel Efficiency Standards

CFA’s brief focused on 3 consumer related areas:

  1.  Consumer Savings: The Trump Administration’s withdrawal of the Final Determination significantly harms consumers by eliminating billions of dollars in consumer savings at the gas pump. EPA attempts to claim that fluctuations in gas prices justify its reversal of the prior administration’s decision to strengthen fuel economy standards. But gas price fluctuations are one of the main reasons consumers support the standard; they know that as often as gas prices go down, they go way back up.
  2. Consumer Preferences: EPA is claiming that consumers’ desire for standards has changed since the Final Determination was issued in 2017. Not so. The agency’s record, including CFA surveys, reveal that consumers strongly prefer higher fuel economy standards.
  3. Low-Income Consumers: EPA’s claims that low-income consumers will be hurt by higher fuel economy standards because they are forced out of the new car market. This patently false claim ignores that only about 2% of low income consumers purchase new cars. Low-income consumers purchase used cars—not new cars. Higher standards will ensure that a steady flow of increasingly fuel efficient vehicles will flow into the used car market. Without the standards, used car buyers will pay more for gasoline.

“Reversing the ill-considered and illegal withdrawal of the Obama administration’s Final Determination supporting the 2022 standards is important because it affirms the evidentiary support for the rule”, pointed out CFA Senior Fellow Mark Cooper. “Two of the three agencies[1] that collaborated on the rule (EPA and the California Air Resources Board with its Clean Cars Program) supported the 2017 Final Determination. This shows how far off the mark the Trump Administration is.”

It is anticipated that this case will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit this summer but could be impacted by the Administration issuing a final rule this spring affecting model years 2021-2025 vehicles. CFA will continue to vigorously fight for higher standards and their enormous benefits for hardworking American families who depend on their vehicles for work and family transportation.

Contact: Jack Gillis, 202-939-1018

[1] NHTSA was required to undergo a separate rulemaking process.