What is the true impact of fuel economy standards on the poor?

Energy efficiency policies in the US certainly have their challenging moments.  Steve Hanley writes a spirited article on the CleanTechnica website about the divergent views on fuel economy standards for vehicles on the most vulnerable. What are your views?


Big Oil Claims Higher Fuel Economy Standards Hurt Poor People The Most. That’s A Lie.

To hear Big Oil tell it, rolling back fuel economy standards is a blessing for poor people. How’s that? Well, more fuel efficient cars cost more to make. Obviously, poor people can’t afford more expensive cars so they have to go out and get a third or a fourth job to pay for new wheels. If new cars cost less, poor people would be able to afford them. Res ipsa loquitur. Case closed.

This sort of specious reasoning is the lifeblood of the front groups sponsored by Big Oil and the Koch Brothers. A 10-year-old could poke holes in their illogical syllogisms, all of which go something like this — a person driving a white car was killed in an accident. Police say speed was a factor. Conclusion: people driving white cars are dangerous drivers.

A classic case of these deliberately misleading claims is this hit piece published by The Heritage Foundation — a front organization funded by the Koch Brothers — in March, 2016. “Fuel Economy Standards Are A Costly Mistake,” the headline screams. The clever people at the Heritage Foundation note that the price of new cars is going up. (True.) They also note that stricter fuel economy standards imposed by the hated Obama regime are going up. (True.) Therefore, the fuel economy standards are the cause of higher sticker prices. (False.)

These wizards would have you believe that improvements in modern cars — touchscreens, 47-way power seats, crumple zones, disc brakes, electronic ignitions and fuel injection systems, air bags, antilock brakes, dual zone climate control systems, sun roofs, collision avoidance systems, even rollover and side impact protection improvements have added nothing to the price of automobiles. According to them, every cent added to the cost of new cars since 1952 is attributable to those damned fuel economy standards!

Organizations like the Heritage Foundation exist for only one purpose — to influence elected officials and policy makers. The wonder is not that they put out such manifestly false information. The wonder is that so many elected officials and policy makers believe it. Doesn’t say much for their intelligence, does it?

The big problem with the claim that higher fuel economy standards make it harder for poor people to buy new cars is that it isn’t true.  According to a report by the Consumer Federation of America, poor people don’t buy new cars. 92% of low income Americans buy used cars. Those cars typically get worse fuel economy then new cars, meaning the poor pay a higher percentage of their available income for fuel than other Americans. About 9% of their weekly budget goes for gasoline, the CFA says.

“This makes preserving the nation’s fuel economy standards critically important to millions of financially challenged Americans,” says Jack Gillis, the executive director of the CFA. “Fuel economy standards that allow consumers to get the most out of a tank of gas are vital in helping keep low-income families mobile. The greater percent of one’s income needed for gasoline, the more the roll back will harm the family budget. This illogical, unfounded rollback will cost consumers regardless of their economic standing. However, what is particularly tragic is that it devastates low-income family finances.”

Gillis points to the damning report by the New York Times last week that reveals Big Oil is the prime mover behind the rollback proposed by the Trump maladministration, which goes even farther than the auto manufacturers had lobbied for. And we are supposed to believe that the oil companies suddenly care a flying fig leaf about poor people? Puh….leeze.

In an e-mail to CleanTechnica, Gillis said, “For low-income families, every dollar counts. Many of these families don’t have the choice not to own a car. The current fuel economy standards now in place guarantee that whatever car they buy will save them money. It’s time to put the needs of hard-working American’s ahead of big oil company profits.”

Bill McKibben tweeted recently that the US government is now little more than a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil and gas industries. The loathsome money grab behind the fuel economy roll back illustrates just how right he is. If you are not disgusted by the predatory practices of those companies and the slavish pandering to them of the Trump maladministration, you simply aren’t paying attention. America is never going to be great until its citizens wake up and realize how they are being played for suckers by Trump and his minions.

2 thoughts on “What is the true impact of fuel economy standards on the poor?

  1. The Koch Brothers do seem always to be funding the most egregiously lying propaganda. There should be a continual spotlight shone upon their malevolence.

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