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Consumer Reports: White House roll back of gas mileage rules compounds financial problems for consumers with economy on brink of recession

Weakening nation’s fuel economy standards will cost Americans $300 billion, do nothing to improve safety, and slow auto sales for years to come

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rollback of federal fuel economy and emission standards, substantially weakening the rules that were set to save consumers billions of dollars and reduce pollution from our cars, trucks and SUVs.

David Friedman, Consumer Reports’ Vice President of Advocacy, says, “At a time when many Americans are without a paycheck and we’re at risk of a recession because of the COVID crisis, it is stunning that the Administration would finalize a plan that will cost drivers more money for years to come. People — consumers, workers, small business owners — are the engine of America’s economy, and the last thing they need is to get stuck spending more on gas.”

“Just like with the proposal, the final rollback fails economics 101. And even then the Administration’s own data shows that increased fuel costs outweigh any changes to vehicle price. What’s left after that is primarily just an effort to force the numbers to look as good as possible.”

Weakening gas mileage requirements from annual increases of about 5% today down to only 1.5% will add thousands of dollars in fuel costs for car owners, more than wiping out the slightly lower vehicle costs from removing fuel-saving technology. The current low gas prices won’t significantly change the impact on consumers, since the vast majority of the vehicles affected by this rollback won’t even be on the market in the next few years, and the vehicles sold will be on the road for 15-20 years.

A recent Consumer Reports analysis of the rule finds that 1.5% annual increases will do the following:

  • Cost all American consumers a total of $300 billion in net losses.
  • Cost 45 states at least $1 billion in net consumer losses.
  • Increase fuel costs per average new vehicle by $3,200.
  • Increase average net costs per new vehicle by $2,100.
  • For every $1 of fuel-saving technology installed in a new vehicle, the driver saves $3 in fuel, based on Dept. of Energy-projected fuel prices.

“This costly decision defies common sense. Fuel savings creates a great domino effect — less money spent on gas means more money spent on things that strengthen the economy, including new cars, which the industry will be desperate to sell in the coming months and years. And more new cars can even save lives, because newer cars are safer cars,” said Friedman.

Over 8 million Americans were injured, and more than 100,000 killed, in traffic crashes over the past three years. But instead of proposing meaningful traffic safety measures, the Administration has created the ‘SAFE’ Rule, which has nothing to do with safety.

Weakening our nation’s fuel economy program would, at best, have no effect on safety, and at worst would actually put lives at risk by slowing the sale of new cars, pickups and SUVs with advanced safety technology,” adds Friedman.

In addition to this rollback, the federal government is also working to strip 14 states of their long-standing authority to set vehicle pollution standards, which have been instrumental in reducing air pollution across the country and had the added benefit of saving consumers money at the pump. A Consumer Reports petition of over 75,000 consumers is demanding that several major automakers drop their support of this attack on the Clean Air Act.

A Fact Sheet about the cost of the rollback to consumers can be found at CR.org/Advocacy.