Ann Carlson: Trump’s Tweet about Yanking California’s Waiver is, Shockingly, Full of Falsehoods

The rollback will not make drivers safe and will not save consumers money.

September 18, 2019 – President Trump just sent out a series of tweets announcing and defending his decision to revoke California’s permission to issue its own tough standards to reduce carbon pollution and require manufacturers to sell Zero Emission Vehicles in the state.  Julia has a great analysis of why the decision is terrible policy and bad law that you can read here.

Here are Trump’s tweets:

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Shockingly, Trump’s claims that cars will be cheaper and safer are false.  It’s first worth pointing out that today’s move is to revoke California’s waiver while the old Obama era standards still remain in place. That’s because the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration have yet to actually release a final rule that would roll back those standards.  They haven’t released a final rule because the administrative record the agencies created to support rolling back the standards to cut carbon pollution from the tailpipes of cars and SUVs is a mess.  But assuming that the Administration finally releases its rule to freeze the national standards at 2020 levels rather than cutting carbon pollution for each year through 2025, it’s simply untrue that the rollback would improve safety and save consumers money.
Let’s start with safety.  The agencies claimed when they first proposed to cut the standards that the new rules would save  12,700 lives and prevent significantly more injuries because more consumers would buy new cars. Those cars, supposedly, would be cheaper and safer.  But the agency provides no justification for those numbers.  In fact, an EPA memo — included in the very same record — warned that the Trump rule would  cause 17 more deaths a year than the Obama standards.   Even more bizarrely, the math and economic assumptions on which the safety claim is made are completely wrong, as USC economist Antonio Bento showed in this comment.  The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer has a terrific explanation of all this bad math here.
But what about cost?  Wouldn’t tougher auto standards that cut carbon pollution cost consumers money? The simple answer is NO. The tougher standards save consumers money and rolling them back would hit consumers hard.  That’s because the more stringent standards save the average consumer more than $3000 over the life of a car in fuel savings even accounting for slightly higher up front car costs. Overall, consumers would pay $460 billion more in fuel prices from the rollback.  And according to Consumer Reports, because most consumers finance their vehicles, they feel the savings in their wallets almost immediately.  Trump’s rollback would hit truck and SUV owners especially hard because the vehicles are less fuel efficient.
In short, Trump’s announcement today to yank California’s waiver will not make drivers safer and will cost them money. Sad!
Ann Carlson is the Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and the co-Faculty Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law.  Professor Carlson is one of the nation’s leading scholars of climate change law and policy.

Legal Planet, a collaboration between faculty at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law, provides insight and analysis on energy and environmental law and policy.  www.legal-planet.org