BY: TIM CRONIN, October 25, 2018
This past summer the Trump administration announced an unprecedented plan to rollback the nation’s auto emissions standards, jeopardizing national and local economies, while hindering our ability to fight climate change.
This irresponsible action by the administration will harm Massachusetts’ economic stability, job growth, air quality, and emissions reduction goals. In response, the Climate Action Business Association and local business leaders submitted written testimony urging the Trump administration to withdraw its proposed rollback.
History of Clean Car Standards
The national clean car standards first originated in the 1960’s, with wide bipartisan support. In fact, Ronald Reagan supported them, establishing California’s stricter standards while he was Governor of that state. The latest update to the standards was made under the Obama administration in 2012, in a deal with American automakers after the recession. As recently as January 2017, EPA staff researchers released a report that concluded that the standards do reduce emissions, are economically achievable, and therefore should not be rolled back. That report also cited how automakers were previously on track to meet the clean car standards at lower cost than originally anticipated. Without any change in the facts, the rollback ignores the thousands of pages of research and analysis that support keeping the standards as they are. The justification for the rollback is the baseless and misleading claim that fuel efficient cars cause more auto deaths.
Why the Rollback is Bad for Massachusetts
What makes the rollback such bad public policy is how much the existing standards are benefiting households and businesses, while achieving the underlying goals of fighting climate change.
In Massachusetts, clean car standards have already improved the fuel economy of all types of passenger vehicles, cutting gas use and saving money for households. Since 2011, the vehicle standards have reduced gas consumption by more than 186 million gallons. As a result, drivers saved $602 million—the equivalent of $212 per household—in fuel costs between 2012 and 2016. If the standards are kept in place, by 2030 the average Massachusetts resident will be $2,650 richer.
These savings directly contribute to economic growth in the Bay State. By saving money at the pump, consumers have more to spend in other sectors of the economy—from food services to household needs—which create local jobs. This means a stronger economy in Massachusetts that is more resilient to fluctuations in the global price of gas. By 2030, the existing standard is estimated to reduce overall gas consumption in Massachusetts by 814 million gallons per year, saving consumers $2.8 billion in reduced gas expenses. As a result, the standards create more than 15,000 jobs in the state and increase its gross state product (GSP) by more than $2 billion by 2030.
And of course these standards reduce emissions, and work to fight climate change, too. The standards have also acted as a powerful policy instrument for achieving Massachusetts’ emissions reduction goals, and ensuring that the state continues to make progress toward a clean and sustainable future. In the face of low gas prices and the resulting increased driving distances, these vehicle standards are a key part of the state’s strategy to curtail transportation emissions. The standards have already reduced annual transportation-related emissions in Massachusetts by 850,000 metric tons. By 2030, the standards would have lowered the state’s global warming emissions by 8.7 million metric tons per year—the equivalent of shutting down two coal-fired power plants.
Local Business Leaders Oppose the Rollback
Don’t take my word for it, listen to what some of our local business leaders said in their written testimony to the Trump administration about why they oppose the proposed rollback, and its impact on their businesses.
One of the main reasons for opposition is the impact climate change will have on the bottom line of local businesses. Lisa Coedy, Consulting Manager at the Surfcomber hotel in South Yarmouth, has a close connection to these impacts: “I manage an oceanfront hotel in Cape Cod. Our flood insurance rates are increasing by over 20% and will continue to do so indefinitely, meaning it won’t be too long before we can no longer afford flood insurance. And never mind the fact that we are located directly on the ocean and it will only take one direct hit from a hurricane and the storm surge alone could do us in.”
On the topic of the rollback’s impacts on the business community, Seth Berkman, Energy Market Analyst for SourceOne said “smart businesses know that they depend on customers who can afford their goods and services. If our customers’ sites are flooded, we lose business.” Adding, “If they can’t operate because of disruptions to their supply chains, we lose business. It is short-sighted and irresponsible to eschew our responsibility to mitigate these climate risks.”
“This [rollback] becomes an economic and business disaster in any given area, and the ripple effects are broad; ultimately no one is immune,” says Rachael Solem, Owner & General Manager at the Irving House at Harvard. “Massachusetts, and ALL states should be doing everything we can to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels through a carbon tax, fixing gas leaks, increasing the requirements for renewable energy sources for electricity, and much more.”
In the face of federal inaction, business leaders look to state government to lead strong efforts to fight climate change. Chris Schaffner, Founder and President of The Green Engineer says, “States can be the laboratory for change. Federal inaction means that we need to lead the way, and redouble our efforts.” Adding, “responsible business leaders will oppose these senseless, shortsighted actions, and will continue to make voluntary efforts to reduce emissions.”
Business leaders also recognize the economic opportunities in climate action, especially in the Commonwealth. “The business community in Massachusetts is one of the leaders in technological advancement and should continue to develop technologies to completely replace fossil fuels,” says David Schreiber, Certified Financial Planner at Greenvest & the Vanderbilt Financial Group. Seth Berkman agrees, “Climate action is the greatest wealth creation opportunity of the century. Mobilizing to generate the clean energy economy won’t just improve the prospects of future generations, it will make a lot of people rich in the process.”
The administration should withdraw its proposed rollback, and preserve economic stability, job growth, air quality, and emissions reduction goals, not only in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but the entire United States. Alternatively, inaction by the federal government should prompt Massachusetts and states across the country to enact strong climate policies, including putting a price on carbon pollution in the transportation sector.