The Great Gas War: House Committee Plans Hearing On Fuel Efficiency Rollback

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the great gas war house committee plans hearing on fuel efficiency rollback

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee said it will schedule a hearing on June 20th regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back automotive efficiency standards. The decision comes from Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Environment and Climate Change Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) — all of whom are in clear opposition to the suggested plan.

The groups will hold a joint hearing to discuss Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and carbon pollution regulations affecting light duty vehicles as they relate to the current administration’s plan to effectively freeze efficiency targets between 2020 to 2026.

“Rolling back our clean car standards threatens American jobs, public health, the climate and consumers. The automobile industry doesn’t even support the Trump Administration’s proposal – no one does, except the oil companies that stand to profit from Americans spending more at the pump filling up less efficient cars,” said Pallone, Schakowsky and Tonko in the release. “We look forward to questioning both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency about this senseless proposal.”

That gives us some idea of what to expect from the hearing. While automakers previously supported the Obama-era efficiency targets, claiming they could be met, their position changed by 2016.

Within the first month of Donald Trump entering office, auto executives met with him to discuss the state of the industry and the possibility of a fuel economy rollback. The administration proved receptive to their pleas and began working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation to see what could be done.

However, saying the industry “doesn’t even support” the plan is rather misleading. Worried that the deal could fracture the U.S. market, automakers would prefer to see a national solution. But the rollback is believed to save them $300 billion in regulatory fees, so it would be shocking if they didn’t have at least some interest in it coming to pass. It just might not be worth it after taking the bigger picture into account.

Blowback from environmentalists and 18 states led by California have also encouraged automakers to be extra careful with their words, lest they find themselves on “the wrong side of history.” Rather than support the rollback openly, most manufacturers encouraged California and the White House to seek compromise and settle somewhere in the middle. Meanwhile, they’re still promoting green tech, trying to prove to the public that they sincerely plan to continue working towards more environmentally friendly products.

Considering the Golden State’s heavy involvement, the California Air Resources Board’s Mary Nichols is likely to testify. California Governor Gavin Newsom may also make an appearance, as he’s made culling tailpipe emissions one of his pet projects. Heidi King, deputy administrator of the NHTSA, should also be in attendance — as well as various representatives (past and present) from the EPA, environmental groups, and the automotive industry.

The fun starts on June 20th.

[Image: Lissandra Melo/Shutterstock]

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  • Lockstops Lockstops on Jun 13, 2019

    Maybe I'm with the crazy Democrats after all: abolish all border controls so that people can bring in whatever the hell vehicles they want, tax free, into the USA!! Then CAFE standards etc. won't mean a thing since only suckers will buy that restricted, overpriced, unreliable garbage.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 13, 2019

    James Charles--I doubt most people think about the future, it is what they can get today.

  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
  • AMcA The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own. Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces. FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?
  • Inside Looking Out Toyota makes mass market cars. Their statement means that EVs are not mass market yet. But then Tesla managed to make mass market car - Mode; 3. Where I live in CA there are more Tesla Model 3s on streets than Corollas.
  • Ltcmgm78 A lot of dirt must turn before there's an EV in every driveway. There must be a national infrastructure plan written by other than politicians chasing votes. There must be reliable batteries that hopefully aren't sourced from strategic rivals. There must be a way to charge a lot of EVs. Toyota is wisely holding their water. There is a danger in urging unplanned and hasty moves away from ICE vehicles. Do we want to listen to unending speeches every election cycle that we are closer than we have ever been to 100% electrification and that voting for certain folks will make it happen faster? Picture every car in your town suddenly becoming all electric and a third of them need a charge or the driver will be late for work. This will take a lot of time and money.
  • Kendahl One thing I've learned is that cars I buy for local errands tend to be taken on 1,000 mile trips, too. We have a 5-speed Focus SE that has gone on longer trips than I ever expected. It has served us well although, if I had it to do over again, I would have bought an ST. At the time of purchase, we didn't plan to move from 1,000 feet elevation to 6,500. The SE is still adequate but the ST's turbo and extra power would have been welcome.