State Treasurer Beth Pearce is urging the Environmental Protection Agency and highway safety administrators to think again about rolling back vehicle emission standards.
The coming change, credited largely to the Trump administration, aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 0.7 to 1.5 percent. By comparison, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan set in 2012 targeted to cut carbon emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels. The target date for the reductions is 2030.
National fuel economy standards began in the 1970s. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates the mileage per gallon, or the corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE). The primary goal is to mitigate environmental impacts.
The EPA and NHTSA announced the changes on Aug. 2.
Pearce says that the proposed changes will have negative environmental and economic impacts.
“Climate change poses risks to the U.S. economy and to state and local governments and their investments,” Pearce said in a recent press release. “We should all oppose weakening fleet efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards for light trucks and cars.”
Pearce is among those who think the Obama administration changes were necessary to reduce harmful pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. She concludes that the EPA and NHTSA must withdraw their proposal and default back to the 2012 standards.
Critics of the 2012 standards say they do little to help the environment and a lot to hurt vehicle quality, safety and affordability. The NHTSA estimates that the Trump administration rollback will reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 by 2029.
David Flemming, a policy analyst for the free-market think tank the Ethan Allen Institute, supports the standards being proposed by the Trump administration.
“Implementing the SAFE Vehicles Rule [the new standards] will allow car manufacturers to focus more of their attention on satisfying consumers’ needs, while still keeping in mind the need to protect our environment,” he said.
Flemming said the Obama-era standards didn’t take driver safety into account, which resulted in automakers designing lighter, more dangerous vehicles to achieve better gas mileage. He also estimates the new standards will save $2,700 per vehicle purchase.
In a letter jointly signed by over 100 conservative leaders, they thank President Trump for the CAFE rewrite.
“The 2012 standards are proving too ambitious, costly, and simply not viable for automakers from a practical or safety standpoint,” the letter states. “Indeed, the National Auto Dealers Association has found that existing mandates increase the cost of vehicles by an average of $3,000.
“The National Academy of Sciences, along with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Brookings Institution, have concluded that CAFE standards are directly responsible for additional fatalities on the road.”
Rep. David Potter, D-Rutland, told True North that he agrees with Pearce on the issue.
“I certainly agree,” he said. “We’re talking here about a scientific report on climate change that points to emissions that are a major problem contributing to climate change.”
The International Panel on Climate Change has put out another report predicting serious environmental impacts for the planet if man-made carbon emissions are not somehow curbed.
“So if you do things to soften emission standards, it’s not helping to mitigate climate change,” Potter said.
He said to ignore these climate reports now is to “put our heads in the sand” and ultimately compromise the future of our future generations. Potter further commented that Vermont still needs to consider somewhat unpopular ideas such as a carbon tax or a gas tax, but he acknowledged that Vermont probably should not tackle these initiatives alone.
“The day is coming when we can’t just pretend it isn’t happening,” he said, adding that if some of these predictions prove true, “sea levels are gonna go up six feet.”