It’s a new era for me as a mom: My teenager has her driver’s permit. The future is here. She’s learning to parallel park and make a three-point turn, and already has big plans to drive herself to school.
Too bad the Trump administration wants her to drive cars of the past. When it comes to making progress on cleaning up cars, SUVs, and pick-ups, this administration is hitting the brakes.
Transportation is the largest source of climate change pollution in the US. And young people like my daughter are paying close attention to that fact. This week, youth leaders from around the world are amassing the largest climate change mobilization in history, with more than 1,000 strikes planned in the US alone. The strikes are the curtain-raiser for climate negotiations in New York next week, where world leaders will gather at the United Nations. Meanwhile, most American teens are frightened of global warming.
As my daughter will be the first to say, the idea of easing off on the climate ambition of the auto industry at this moment makes no sense.
Yet the Trump administration is working steadily to roll back Clean Car Standards, the greenhouse gas emissions program that reduces global warming pollution from the transportation sector. The administration’s own analysis of its proposed approach admitted it would increase climate pollution by more than 7 billion tons through 2100—that’s more than the entire USA emits in a year. A rollback this severe isn’t just senseless, it’s decidedly destructive.
Any cost-conscious parent who’s recently bought a car would have to agree. For almost a decade, the Clean Car Standards have spurred major fuel efficiency improvements, so that there are now many more models available that get upwards of 25 miles per gallon—and that means a savings every time you fill up. The Clean Car Standards will further increase fuel efficiency across the entire US fleet. Weakening these standards would cost American families hundreds of dollars each year in gas bills.
In fact, even the auto industry agrees this rollback takes us backwards.
Hard to believe, but the Trump administration’s own assessment of its proposed rollback found that it would cost America 60,000 jobs (see Table VII-5, pages 43265-43266). Independent organizations like Blue Green Alliance have concluded that job losses would be even higher.
Last June, seventeen automakers sent a letter to the Trump administration warning of the harmful instability that could result from the administration’s rollback. The letter encouraged the administration to negotiate with key stakeholders and find a common path forward on Clean Car Standards. The Trump administration rebuffed the automakers’ request.
Then, in July, Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen joined with California – long a leader in addressing vehicle pollution – to announce principles that would help ensure continued pollution reductions from passenger cars and trucks.
News reports suggest that President Trump was enraged by the automakers’ announcement with California. So, in a vindictive tit-for-tat attack, he strong-armed the Justice Department to open an investigation into those four automakers. And, just this week, the administration finalized its attack on California and other states’ long-standing authority to protect their residents from pollution.
It seems the only winner in this arrangement is the oil industry, which has been aggressively pushing for the administration’s proposed rollback.
We need to be slashing climate pollution from cars and trucks as quickly as possible. You don’t even need a driver’s license to know that.