By on April 27, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt spent the majority of his Thursday being raked over the coals by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee before a second (even uglier) exchange with the House Appropriations subcommittee. The majority of the time was spent addressing concerns surrounding Pruitt’s expenditures — things like unnecessary first-class travel, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, and his 24-hour security team. There were also discussions about alleged death threats against Pruitt and EPA staff, his overall conduct, and even a little bit on environmental policy.

Those discussions, however, saw some subcommittee members accuse Pruitt of championing the profits of oil companies and automakers over the wellbeing of the planet. The EPA head spent the duration of Thursday defending his actions, including planned regulatory rollbacks on fuel economy. He also supported the automotive industry’s proposal to abolish 87 octane and replace it with 95.

As ugly as the day was for Pruitt, Republicans occasionally hopped on the mic to gently support him. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said, “I think the greatest sin you’ve done is, you’ve actually done what President Trump ran on.”

For our purposes, the majority of the EPA’s spending habits are irrelevant. However, there are exceptions. A member of the House Appropriations subcommittee discussing Pruitt’s trips abroad asked about a recent visit to Morocco, where he promoted U.S. natural gas exports. “I can’t for the life of me imagine why an EPA administrator would be over there promoting energy sales,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said.

Pruitt explained the trip as a preliminary meeting for the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement and had been asked to go over liquefied natural gas by an ambassador.

His ties to the business end of energy, especially with oil companies, was called further into question later in the interview. Numerous references were made to leaked emails with oil and gas executives. But, as there is nothing illegal about being on friendly terms with people, the most the subcommittee could do is accuse him of being soft on them.

Pruitt’s proposal to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards was believed by many to be the smoking gun of favoritism. But he defended the decision of easing fueling standards by reminding the panel that people aren’t buying enough economical vehicles.

“We ought to endeavor as a country to set standards for lower emissions on cars that people actually want to buy,” Pruitt said. “And what’s happened is we’ve created these arbitrary levels that has put a certain sector of cars in the marketplace that no one is purchasing, which means they stay on older vehicles and defeats the purpose of the rule.”

He went on to say that one way of helping automakers meet CAFE is to pursue a national standard for high octane fuel. Automakers have come together to push 95 octane as the new regular for pump gas, claiming it will ultimately lead to higher-compression engines that bolster average economy. That endorsement certainly doesn’t help his image as playing favorites with carmakers and oil firms, especially since automakers could already do that without eliminating 87 octane via governmental action.

The State of New York recently announced its intent to sue the Trump administration if it carries out its proposal to repeal the EPA climate change rules for power plants and has sided with California in its adherence to Obama-era fuel economy regulations. However, Pruitt said there is no plan at the moment to revoke California’s waiver to maintain stricter air quality standards than those of the federal government. But he also said the EPA’s goal was to create a single program all states could adhere to, and that he is working with the California Air Resources Board to establish one.

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22 Comments on “EPA Head Defends Fuel Economy Rules, Industry Ties On Capitol Hill...”


  • avatar
    St.George

    We’ve seen that one of the unintended consequences of the tough (unrealistic?) CAFE targets (that seem to only apply to passenger cars) is that the low margins on these vehicles precludes the ability to engineer them to meet those standards. I think that if there are to be CAFE targets, they should a/ be realistic & achievable and b/ should apply to more than just passenger cars.

    The other stuff we see in the article is the typical partisan cr*p.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      I am REALLY going to enjoy watching the mental gymnastics of the Jalopnik crowd when Toyota, Honda and Nissan start raising prices on small cars due to no competition, and later also abandoning the subcompact-medium car segments when they admit $20k cars just can’t not lose money and still satisfy CAFE.

      The Korean carmakers are also going to abandon the segments since if 20k cars can’t make it, 17k cars can’t either.

      Subaru buyers already pay whatever Nakajima-Fuji wants them to pay so Subaru will be fine.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I can identify with Pruitt’s observation that people would rather keep their old vehicles than buy new ones that they find undesirable. Fuel consumption isn’t the only issue. I don’t want the so-called safety features that take control of the vehicle when it disagrees with my driving decisions but it is becoming impossible to buy anything without them. If I were to replace my Infiniti G37S, it wouldn’t be with another Infiniti. They lost me by abandoning manual transmissions. I hope our Focus SE lasts a long time. Ford no longer offers the SE hatchback with a manual and appears to be abandoning sedans for trucks and SUVs. When we need something that big, we take the van from which we have removed all but the front seats.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I guess being under 10 separate investigations is just partisan crap?

    “I can identify with Pruitt’s observation that people would rather keep their old vehicles than buy new ones that they find undesirable.”

    That is rather generic and has little relation to mpg or emissions. Financial pressures and repair costs tend to be the main determinant affecting replacement with a new vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Lou we generally agree and you have helped shape my worldview for the better, but it is clear to me its all just a fishing expedition to find *something* because they both fear and hate the President. In the 90’s Republicans did the same thing with then President Clinton, although fortunately for him key witnesses were conveniently Arkancided and evidence lost. We now know Bill to be at the least a liar and serial rapist, but this was not completely evident at the time. The Don may turn out to be the same after the fact, I don’t know. The great irony in all of this is if there was ever a need for congressional investigation it is: Clinton Foundation, Clinton influence on DNC before nominations, voter fraud in Dem primaries, Hillary emails, Bill tarmac meeting with AG, conspiracies on which evidence has come to light within DOJ and FBI, etc. Ingenious the criminals went on the offensive and put focus on fictional crimes of others to avoid anyone talking about their own misdeeds.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @28-Cars-Later – I do agree that part of the reason for investigating Pruitt is the hatred of Trump but Pruitt has done some very boneheaded things.

        The Clintons are corrupt. No doubt about that. Unfortunately due to Trump’s ranting and ravings, any investigations will be seen as partisan Republican no different than any investigations of Trump and associates as being partisan Democrat.

        Oh and thanks. Much appreciated.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          @ Lou BC

          The only boneheaded thing Pruitt has done is shut down the environmental slush fund operated under the banner of the EPA.

          Pruitt is standing between the entrenched bureaucracy and their millions of kickback dollars. The result is predictable. Pouting. Tantrums. Apocalyptic fairy tales. Crocodile tears of rage.

          The public is simply not aware of the vast crimes perpetrated during Obama’s tenure. For instance, Eric Holder’s DOJ was allowing companies to avoid civil penalties if they made donations to certain preferred not-for-profit organizations. This sort of thing is just the tip of the iceberg during Obama’s presidency.

          Bureaucrats are not going to stop thieving because they lost an election. They are going to attack a legitimately elected government, and force us to put them behind bars. We should oblige them without hesitation.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        “know…to be a serial rapist”? Have we gotten this casual with criminal accusations in our eagerness to normalize the current administration?

        Frankly, the whole series of posts in this thread defending the overt corruption of the current EPA administrator should be embarrassing not only to the poster, but to the site. The moderator concept is looking better by the minute.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “A member of the House Appropriations subcommittee discussing Pruitt’s trips abroad asked about a recent visit to Morocco, where he promoted U.S. natural gas exports. “I can’t for the life of me imagine why an EPA administrator would be over there promoting energy sales,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said.”

    I can’t for the life of me imagine why an EPA administrator would spend $64,963 on a trip to Tel Aviv or $51,436 for a trip to Montreal for any reason Chellie.

    Choke on it b!tch.

    Oh and Chellie on Mrs. Jackson:

    Liar

    “Media outlets and industry figures often refer to Jackson’s testimony during a May 2011 Senate Hearing Committee that she is not aware of any cases where hydraulic fracturing itself has contaminated water.[35] A 1987 EPA report and reports released since May 2011, however, have identified hydraulic fracturing as the likely source of water contamination in several cases”

    Corzine.

    “In 2006, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine appointed Jackson the state’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection. Jackson also briefly served as Corzine’s Chief of Staff in late 2008.”

    Clinton Foundation.

    “Jackson has served on the board of directors of the Clinton Foundation since 2013.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_P._Jackson#EPA_Administrator

    “Lisa Jackson, who was Obama’s EPA director between 2009 and 2013, spent more than $332,000 on airfare and security for four international trips, on average $83,000 per trip, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

    She spent $64,963 for trips to Tel Aviv; $59,950 to Rio de Janeiro; $51,436 to Montreal; and $155,764 to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/03/22/obamas-epa-appointees-spent-as-much-or-more-on-travel-than-trumps-pruitt-data-show.html

  • avatar
    TW5

    Why is this 87 to 95 narrative still permeating? We already discussed the difference between AKI and RON ratings when the last article was written. Regardless, it does appear to be a giant handout to the auto manufacturers, and a backdoor way to reduce fuel consumption without raising taxes.

    Technically, tax creates deadweight loss for consumers and businesses alike, but I’d almost prefer to pay tax than to support fuel mandates, which also corrupt the market while providing billions to the oil refining supermajors.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      …tax creates deadweight loss for consumers and businesses alike…

      Yeah, I’m sure industry is just dying to give us roads to use, defend our country, educate it’s kids…

      The deadweight is from WASTED tax dollars – that waste takes and returns nothing. Pruitt is a classic example, but he is hardly alone. And neither party is clean on this issue, not by a long shot…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @28-Cars–So does it make it right for Pruitt to spend this kind of money as well. I personally am opposed to any of these trips regardless if it is the Democrats or the Republicans. I live in a primarily Republican area which use to be Democratic. Those in power just switched political parties but they are still career politicians with their hands in the till. Fox News is no better than the supposed liberal media, both have their agendas. Our county judge executive is a Republican that has been in office for 20 years. Some of his perks are making 200k a year, a 4×4 luxury suv furnished at taxpayer expense, paid trips to go all of the country to supposedly study urban planning, and a host of other nonessential things while receiving generous campaign contributions for taking care of his major contributors. He is definitely a career politician and the least of his concerns are those he represents.

    I am not making any excuses but if you believe the Democrats are any worse than the Republicans then I have some ocean front property in Arizona that you might be interested in.

    As for EPA regulations eventually there will be another President and most likely they will be from a different political persuasion. All of the sudden we will have even stricter regulations. This is nothing new it is just politics.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      None of them should be doing it, but they do and there’s nothing we can really do about it except stop acting all holier than thou like Chellie.

      “This is nothing new it is just politics.”

      Nothing new under the sun.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        Looking at all the news, do we now again care about public spending, government officials’ financial behavior, and conflict of interest? Are 2017-2020 the years of investigative journalism again?

        Perhaps the brain trust from the clouds will let us know on Jan 21st, 2021 if we should stop caring about those things between 2021 and 2024.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      “As for EPA regulations eventually there will be another President and most likely they will be from a different political persuasion. All of the sudden we will have even stricter regulations. This is nothing new it is just politics.”

      So one administration locking in arbitrary regulations at the 23rd hour is just the way it is, while the next one that tries to undo the damage needs to be put under the microscope to see if they waste money on office spending?

      Huh.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    “We ought to endeavor as a country to set standards for lower emissions on cars that people actually want to buy,” Pruitt said. “And what’s happened is we’ve created these arbitrary levels that has put a certain sector of cars in the marketplace that no one is purchasing, which means they stay on older vehicles and defeats the purpose of the rule.”

    That’s CAFE2025 in summary.

    He is not wrong about older cars either, we have two sedans that get adequate MPGs which we will not get rid of until we cannot find parts for them anymore(and they are both cars with plenty of parts in scrap yards) because their new equivalents are much more expensive (even if we take inflation into consideration, and just too darned big.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Pruitt is unfit for the position he holds. The agency he heads is supposed to base its regulations on science, not the relationship he holds with the industry he is supposed to regulate. Regardless of what your opinions might be on environmental protection, it is not a partisan position to expect a regulatory body to be independent of the private entities being regulated. I won’t even get into his disregard for how he spends taxpayer money. That is not a red/blue issue at all. It is an issue of good, responsible government.

    I am intrigued by how higher compression engines might be a way to boost mileage however. The concern of the phase out of 87 octane might be best compared to the elimination of toxic lead from regular in 1975. By the early 80s leaded gas started disappearing – first from the more affluent areas where the demand dropped first, then by the mid 80s I could no longer buy it for my designed-for-lead car. I suspect the same will occur with 87. However, since 87 does not have the toxicity problem of lead, there is no reason for refiners not to make it as long as the demand makes its production economically viable.

    My biggest concern is how they raise the octane….if ethanol is the method then I don’t see how that will improve the “well to wheel” efficiency of America’s fleet and frankly that is the only metric that matters.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @golden2husky–I believe that more ethanol will be used to meet the higher octane levels. The reason I believe this is because of Big Agra and the grain belt. Every 4 years the Presidential candidates promise to keep the corn subsidies and support ethanol. Hard to campaign in Iowa without promising to continue support for the farmers. Those Senators and Representatives from the grain belt cannot go against their constituents and not supporting farm subsidies and ethanol would be a kiss of death for them politically.

    I don’t agree with the reversal of the 2025 mandates for several reasons. I believe it would have been better to give the manufacturers an extension of 5 years. One reason is that might have kept this out of the courts which possibly could rule in favor of the regulations. The other reason is that in the past the manufacturers have said that they couldn’t meet the emission and efficiency standard when eventually they did. Why not at least try and if the manufacturers need more time then give it to them.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      “The other reason is that in the past the manufacturers have said that the couldn’t meet the emission and efficiency standard when eventually they did.”

      If it advanced the up front cost of your choice of vehicle by $6-8k based on added emissions equipment alone, and guaranteed you endless warranty trips to the dealership that left your vehicle unusable for a week or more at a time, all because big brother forced an unobtanium standard on the OEM’s that they simply did not have a grasp on yet, would you still hold the same opinion? What if you relied on said vehicle to make a living and every day it spent on the rack cost you money and eventually business accounts?
      It’s easy to pass the buck when your bottom line isn’t affected.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Hybrid power trains would go a long way in getting close to the 2025 mandates. I doubt just an ICE will get there without making it a hybrid. I doubt that these standards will completely go away and if so only for a short period of time.

  • avatar
    06M3S54B32

    Imagine that; a stupid Agent Orange appointee, and big oil lackey calling the shots. He has no Science degree either. Anything Pruitt says is pure crap.


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