Well, the automakers are trying to work their scare-tactic magic again, this time claiming that if the more-than-reasonable 35 miles-per-gallon fuel economy standard by 2020 passed in the Senate Energy Bill becomes law, they will close down SUV plants. This would be like trying to get back at someone who egged your house by burning it to the ground so they couldn’t egg it again. Here’s our view on the latest histrionics coming from Detroit:
U.S. Automakers Misleading the Public about Benefits of Stronger Fuel Economy Standards, Science Group Says
August 16--Detroit Three Holds Rally in Chicago to Protest Proposed Fuel Economy Bill; Second Rally Slated for August 22 U.S. automakers will host a rally today in Chicago to protest a proposed federal fuel economy standard. Sponsored by General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, the rally is part of an industry campaign to pressure a panel of U.S. lawmakers tasked with resolving differences between Senate and House energy bills to weaken the standard. The automakers plan another rally in St. Louis on August 22.
The standard in question would set a 35 mile-per-gallon (mpg) fleetwide average target for 2020. If fully implemented, the standard would save American drivers billions of dollars at the pump, cut hundreds of millions of tons of global warming pollution, and generate tens of thousands of new jobs, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The auto industry is backing a feeble proposal sponsored by Reps. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) that would save approximately 180 million barrels of oil in 2020, which is what we currently consume in about nine days. This approach is significantly weaker than the president's goal of saving 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline in 2017 through fuel economy improvements of 4 percent per year.
"U.S. automakers are continuing to mislead the public about the very real benefits of a strong federal fuel economy standard and the fact that they have the technology to meet it," said David Friedman, research director in UCS's Clean Vehicle Program. "The National Academy of Sciences says existing and emerging conventional technology can boost the fuel economy of all vehicles, from two-seaters to four-by-fours. Detroit can produce 34-mile-per-gallon SUVs, 37-mile-per-gallon minivans and 41-mile-per-gallon family cars. Our own research shows that the auto companies can do even better than that."
According to a recent UCS analysis, fully implementing the 35 mpg target would:
• save drivers $25 billion at the pump in 2020, above and beyond the cost of the technology (at the 2006 average gas price of $2.55, in 2005 dollars)
• generate 22,300 jobs in the auto industry and a total of 170,800 new jobs nationwide in 2020 (for the UCS analysis, go to: www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/fuel_economy/fuel-economy-jobs-and-consumer-savings.html)
• cut 206 million metric tons of global warming pollution in 2020 alone—equivalent to taking more than 30 million of today's average cars and trucks off the road
• save 1.2 million barrels of oil per day—equivalent to the amount of oil the United States now imports from Saudi Arabia daily
"U.S. automakers have a long history of whining that they can't improve their products," said Friedman. "Their claims about the Senate proposal are just a reprise of their claims that adding seatbelts, airbags, and catalytic converters would bankrupt their industry. Meanwhile they are being outpaced on their home turf by foreign competitors that are producing more fuel efficient cars."
A recent analysis from Lehman Brothers based on the actual language of the Senate bill showed that a 35 mpg standard with a size-based approach, which would set different targets for different vehicle sizes - from small cars to big trucks - would have no effect on sales of big pickups and SUVs. The analysis showed that these large vehicles would have to only improve fuel economy by 25 percent to preserve existing sales under the new standard. The National Academy of Sciences indicated that those vehicles could more than double that improvement with existing and emerging technologies.
"It is reprehensible that Detroit auto executives are threatening their workers by telling them they may have to close down plants," Friedman said. "It would be a very dumb business decision to shut down an SUV plant instead of investing in existing technology. Why would a company turn over the market for millions of vehicles to its competitors when it has the technology to upgrade its plants to make vehicles that get better fuel economy? If they need help making the investments they should be negotiating for tax credits, not working to undermine our national energy security."
Regardless of the auto industry's Astroturf campaign to weaken proposed federal fuel economy standards, many lawmakers recognize that tightening standards not only will save Americans money, cut pollution and create jobs, it will strengthen national security, according to Eli Hopson, a UCS spokesperson.
"The good news is that the Senate and the House Democratic leadership have rejected the industry's scare tactics and are committed to including strong CAFE standards in the bill when it goes to the president's desk," said Hopson. "Without increased fuel economy standards, the bill would not reduce our energy dependence or bolster national security."
Posted by: ScottN