PennFuture Blog

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Trump’s Attack on our Environment

by Larry J. Schweiger

In his first speech before Congress, President Trump pledged to "promote clean air and water" while he nominated Scott Pruitt to dismantle the EPA and gut vital programs across the spectrum.

The Trump/Pruitt budget defunds the critically important climate plan to comply with the Paris agreement, and they propose killing the Chesapeake Bay Program. They have already dumped the Waters of the United States Rule, and they are again allowing coal companies to dump waste into rivers and streams. 

There are so many critical programs on Trump’s chopping block that it’s hard to single out an example of what is at stake with so many on the line. Perhaps, the auto efficiency rules that President Obama carried to completion are a good example. 

The Trump administration announced that it will roll back auto regulations and weaken the fuel economy standards that were set by President Obama's EPA, requiring cars and light trucks to get a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. 

Last month, automakers lobbied the EPA to withdraw that rule when the same CEOs stood with myself and Bob King, who was then head of the Auto Workers. All five of us were asking for these very same regulations. 

What has changed? The gas prices have come down as efficiency reduced demand as the auto fleet turns over. Now, the automakers want to go back to building gas guzzlers and Trump wants to give out favors like candy - and he will deregulate whether it makes sense or not.

These rules save consumers enormous amounts of money over the life of a fuel-efficient car, mostly at the pump, and the cost/benefit is extraordinarily positive. This rule cuts CO2 emissions from each automobile and truck by 50 percent by 2025 as automakers move to electric, hybrids and more efficient drivetrains, aerodynamic designs and lighter and stronger vehicles.

The official government data at the time the rules were adopted indicated: "The benefits of the finalized Obama EPA rules are valued at $144 billion a year (all figures in 2010 dollars). Most of the benefits come from saving lives and other health benefits. They also include benefits such as substantially reduced fuel expenditures by consumers or increased worker productivity (because workers are healthier).

The compliance costs of the Obama EPA rules ultimately amount to about $26 billion a year. In combination, the annual costs equal only about 0.1 percent of the economy—or one-thousandth of the economy. Compliance costs of this magnitude should not be expected to dramatically influence economic growth or employment in one direction or another.

The net benefits from these rules total $118 billion a year. Benefits exceed costs by a ratio of 5.5 to 1."

Dependence on foreign oil is a destructive drag on the U.S. economy. Since 1990, nearly $5 trillion went out of the U.S. economy, moving offshore to buy oil largely from the Middle East. Continued dependence on foreign oil presents enormous national economic and security risks, fundamental moral and ethical compromises and incalculable ecological damage to the entire planet. So what does Trump do? He is proposing to eliminate the highly successful fuel efficiency standards, rewarding big oil while hurting the consuming public.

It is time for Congress stands up to Trump and Pruitt and just say no to these rule changes. 

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