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Consumer Reports: Rolling back fuel economy standards will do nothing to improve traffic safety, and will be very costly for American consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer Reports, the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, today released an analysis showing that American consumers will lose about $460 billion dollars in fuel savings in the coming years if the federal government goes forward with plans to roll back the nation’s fuel economy and emissions standards for new cars and light-duty trucks.

The rollback was just submitted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for review within the White House, suggesting the proposal may soon be finalized.

Even though the basis for the rollback proposal is purportedly to improve highway traffic safety, and thus named the “SAFE Rule” by federal agencies, this analysis by Consumer Reports (CR) finds that freezing fuel economy and emissions standards would not improve safety.

The negative financial impact, and the effects on traffic safety, were calculated using conservative projections, and are just two of several important conclusions reached in CR’s new study, The Un-SAFE Rule: How a Fuel Economy Rollback Costs Americans Billions in Fuel Savings and Does Not Improve Safety.

Key findings include:

  • The rollback will cost American consumers an additional $460 billion, which comes out to an added $3300 per new vehicle, compared to keeping the current standards, taking into account fuel costs and vehicle costs, among other factors.
  • The rollback is equivalent to forcing new vehicle buyers to pay an additional gas tax of $0.63 per gallon by 2025, except instead of that added cost going towards a community improvement project like infrastructure, it goes directly to oil companies.
  • About 70 percent of the additional fuel costs from the rollback will fall on pickup truck, minivan, and SUV drivers.
  • The rollback will harm the automotive industry, lowering vehicle sales by over 2 million through 2035.
  • The rollback means losing out on the development and installation of fuel-saving technology, which, under the current standards, would have saved drivers $3 for every $1 invested.

David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy for Consumer Reports, said, “The facts don’t back this rule’s Orwellian name. The evidence shows that lowering fuel economy and emissions standards won’t do anything to improve traffic safety, but it will leave Americans stuck with the bill.” 

“Instead of making a data-driven decision, the agencies instead seem to have been given a predetermined outcome and tried to make the numbers back it,” said Friedman. “They don’t.”

In anticipation of this rule by NHTSA and EPA, four major automakers came to an agreement with the state of California that they would voluntarily hold their vehicles to emissions levels that, while weaker than the existing federal rules, would avoid a full freeze, as expected from the final rule. In light of the framework that has been made public, Consumer Reports will be analyzing the impacts this agreement could have on consumers.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Manager of Cars & Energy Policy and a co-author of the study, said, “Whether it’s a complete freeze or a partial rollback, weakening Clean Cars standards costs Americans money and increases pollution. The last thing the federal government should be doing is burdening consumers with more costs, while thwarting progress in the development of cleaner cars.”

You can read and download the full report, including a “Summary for Media and Policymakers,” at the top of this page. A Fact Sheet of the important findings are also available for download on this page.

Media Contact: Adam Winer, adam.winer@consumer.org, 202-462-6262 x7444


Consumer Reports is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.