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CR to EPA: Adopt stronger clean car standards, close automaker loopholes

  • In formal comments filed with EPA, Consumer Reports calls on agency to adopt standards that restore the consumer benefits of the 2012 clean cars rule
  • CR’s Cleaner Cars petition garnered 19,042 signatures from consumers and activists in support of stronger standards and the elimination of automaker loopholes from EPA’s current proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer Reports today filed formal comments with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to the agency’s proposal for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new vehicles.  

In its proposal released on August 5, EPA presents two alternatives for standards to promote cleaner cars and improved air quality. CR said EPA’s preferred alternative falls short of the reforms needed, and urged the agency to adopt its “Alternative 2” as a starting point for stronger standards.  

Consumer Reports’ analysis of EPA’s proposal found that the loopholes and extra credits are an unnecessary giveaway to automakers, especially since most of them already agreed to meet more stringent standards in 2012. Loopholes are complex credit schemes that appear to create emissions reductions on paper, but fail to deliver real-world benefits to consumers and the environment. The loopholes in EPA’s current proposal include electric vehicle multipliers, off-cycle credits, and hybrid pick-up credits as outlined in CR’s most recent fact sheet.

CR’s senior transportation policy analyst Chris Harto, says, “EPA adopting the strongest standards possible is important, but ensuring that automakers actually deliver real world performance is equally important. The loopholes for automakers and various credits and multipliers included in EPA’s current proposal can reduce the benefits delivered by stronger standards. We’re calling on the EPA to close all automaker loopholes, as they put the consumer benefits of the rule at risk.”

Consumer Reports also strongly supports EPA increasing the stringency of the 2026 standard by 10 g/mi. According to EPA’s own analysis, the agency’s current proposal will result in less than 8% vehicle electrification by 2026, putting the U.S. fleet well behind both automakers’ and the Biden administration’s stated goals of achieving 50% electrification in 2030. The adaptation of EPA’s Alternative 2, plus an increase in stringency for vehicles manufactured in 2026 and later, would result in similar consumer savings when compared with the original 2012 Obama-era standards.

Mobilizing consumers and activists has also been a core part of CR’s work to hold the administration accountable for reinstating strong light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standards and for achieving its bold climate goals. Last month, CR mobilized over 30 consumers to testify at EPA’s hearing in support of more stringent GHG standards. These consumers urged regulators to hold automakers accountable for improving the efficiency of their fleets over time. This month, CR’s petition calling for the strongest clean car standards possible received thousands of signatures from individuals that support EPA strengthening its proposal.

“This is a pivotal moment for the Biden administration’s EPA to secure the country’s boldest clean car standards to date,” says Dr. Quinta Warren, CR’s associate director of sustainability policy, “We know consumers care about these issues and we want to elevate the consumer voice in this process. CR is sharing over 19,000 petition signatures from consumers with EPA to demonstrate this support for stronger standards and cleaner cars.”

EPA’s public comment period officially closed on September 27 and the agency’s review process of the submissions is now underway. A related piece of this rule sits with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which sets the country’s corporate average fuel economy standards. NHTSA’s proposed standards are currently available for review and the agency is accepting public comments until October 26. Consumer Reports will engage with NHTSA during the open comment period, with plans to testify at the agency’s October 13 public hearing to highlight the consumer benefits of strong fuel economy standards.

Contact: carsen.mata@consumer.org