How the federal fuel efficiency rollback diminishes security

ShutterstockAngela Perryman
A fuel tanker, damaged in an attack on a convoy in Iraq.

On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, American troops have been held in the deadly grip of gasoline for more than 15 years.

Reliant on the fuel to power almost all trucks, tanks and generators, American service members must transport the resource in big fuel convoys across dangerous territories, leaving themselves constantly at risk of attack. Veterans such as former Army Captain Jonathan Gensler have painful memories of burying friends struck by roadside bombs along these routes in Iraq — bombs that themselves likely were financed and deployed thanks to oil profits in the hands of enemies of the United States.

To troops, every mile that a truck can go before having to refuel saves American lives. Fuel efficiency isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.

Last month, Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced that it plans to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards that were set to raise the average fuel economy of vehicles to more than 40 miles per gallon by 2025 (PDF).

Although we may not all be on the battlefield, Americans soon will feel the pain of this misguided decision. The damage will occur in wallets at the gas pump, the competitiveness of the auto industry and the coming dangers of a rapidly changing climate. The decision to reopen these standards to weakening represents the latest move by the Trump administration to roll back progress and leave America insecure.

It’s common sense that more efficient vehicles will save money by pushing vehicles farther on less fuel in the tank. A recent survey shows that nearly nine in 10 consumers want automakers to improve vehicle fuel efficiency, and 79 percent want to shoot for 40 miles per gallon efficiency by 2025. Who wouldn’t want their vehicle to go 15 miles further for each gallon of gas?

 The standards that the Trump administration is determined to roll back would have saved Americans $92 billion at the pump. That is money that every family could use to make their personal finances more secure and to save for investments such as education and retirement that will strengthen communities in the long term.

But Americans won’t be paying only for this repeal in their tanks because weaker standards also will have a big effect on jobs and the economy. Already more than 288,000 workers manufacture fuel-efficient vehicle parts, and further innovation in these technologies could have created 100,000 more jobs by 2025 (PDF).

With China, Europe and other countries already adopting fuel efficiency standards, less efficient American vehicles won’t be as competitive on the global market. That puts American workers and automobiles at risk, when instead the U.S. should be innovating the technologies and jobs of the future.

Finally, less efficient vehicles will lead to much more oil consumed and far more greenhouse gases emitted, bad news for our attempts to halt global climate change. The transportation sector is one of the biggest contributors of American emissions, and the fuel efficiency standards alone would have cut our country’s greenhouse emissions by 6 billion metric tons by 2025.

Donald Trump may ignore the looming consequences of climate change, but this is yet another threat that the American military cannot afford to ignore on the battlefield. National security leaders recognize that climate change is a destabilizing "threat multiplier" that makes already dangerous situations worse and can add pressure to conflict hotspots around the world.

The last thing that American citizens — or troops — need are more costly and inefficient vehicles that contribute to weakening the economy and environment in the long term. Americans want common-sense fuel efficiency standards to save money in pockets, provide good jobs, and help safeguard the planet at the same time.

U.S. veterans and everyday Americans understand the importance of efficiency and innovation to long-term stability. It’s time that EPA Administrator Pruitt, and the entire Trump administration, take American security seriously.

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