Cars and the Big Three automakers have always been a part of my family’s legacy and pride in American manufacturing. My great-grandmother Mabel went to work in an auto plant in Michigan during World War II, and we’ve always been proud to know that her photo hangs in UAW Local 985 hall.
That’s why it was such a joy to purchase my Ford plug-in hybrid electric C-MAX, knowing an American company had made a car that gets more than 70 miles per gallon.
But now that Ford and other automakers are aggressively pushing President Donald Trump to weaken fuel efficiency standards – as they did Wednesday in Ypsilanti, Mich. – my pride has turned to pain.
To ensure clean air and a healthy climate for our families – not to mention creating more high-paying jobs for the next great generation – we need to put vehicle emissions safeguards in the fast lane, not shift to reverse.
Currently, passenger cars account for about 47 percent of all the oil we burn in the U.S. and more than 16 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In California, transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and passenger vehicles compose 70 percent of this pollution. More than 90 percent of Californians live in areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards, and more than 5 million Californians have asthma.
The good news is that clean car standards will reduce air pollution and will reduce climate pollution by 6 billion metric tons over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold in model years 2012-25 – the equivalent of carbon pollution from 150 typical coal-fired power plants for an entire year.
After President Barack Obama proposed stronger fuel efficiency standards in 2009, labor groups, environmental advocates and the very same automakers now opposing these efforts stood with him and agreed that the standards were important, realistic and achievable. But with a new administration in office, Ford and other automakers are claiming the standards are unrealistic and too difficult to reach, and that consumers aren’t interested in fuel efficiency.
These claims couldn’t be further from the truth; automakers are meeting these standards, and Americans are eager for fuel-efficient cars. Our cars are cleaner and more efficient than ever before, and with innovations including conventional internal combustion engine vehicles and hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles, automakers have the technology to meet these standards.
A recent Consumers Union study shows Americans want even greater fuel economy in their vehicles. Even with lower gas prices and the additional cost of fuel-saving technologies, strong efficiency standards will save the average driver between $3,000 and $4,200 over the lifetime of the vehicle compared to today’s new cars and trucks.
Strong standards fuel the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers in the global market. Countries around the world are tightening fuel efficiency standards. Strong standards will keep auto industry jobs here at home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these standards can create about 650,000 new full-time advanced vehicle manufacturing jobs.
Ford and other automakers are now putting short-term profit for auto executives and expediency over the health, safety and long-term economic security of our families. As a consumer, a proponent of clean air and descendent of a proud autoworker, I am outraged. Californians and all Americans deserve better from our government and automakers.
Jesse Simon is national program director for the Sierra Club. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.