Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on US fuel economy standards. This hearing is officially about the “Midterm Review and Update on the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Program and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards For Motor Vehicles,” which is, in plain speak, a chance for government and the auto industry to talk about whether or not the current CAFE plan is hit 54.5 miles per gallon (average) by 2025 is a good one. The thing is, today’s might not be the clearest look at the issue.
Seth Michaels, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently said in an email that, “we’ll be hearing a lot from majority members and their key witnesses on problems with the national fuel economy standards” and said he believes that, the “spin from auto industry trade groups has been very misleading.” A just-issued report by the Center For Automotive Research (CAR) could be seen as an example of this. CAR isn’t a part of the majority party in Congress and isn’t on the speaker’s list for the hearing, but the timing is notable. CAR is, as Automotive News says, “a research organization supported by funding from state and federal government, industry associations, corporations and foundations.” And it certainly released its report at an opportune time.
This report is intentionally one-sided. It focuses on the economic impacts of higher fuel economy levels, but it doesn’t equally address the broader picture. For example, it doesn’t mention the environmental impacts of higher fuel economy levels. It also only mentions the health effects of greenhouse gases once, for example, and that’s just to say that the EPA has said that GHGs are dangerous to humans. To be fair, that sort of context isn’t in the scope of the paper’s title: An Assessment of Powertrain Technology Costs Associated with Meeting CAFE and GHG Standards. CAR ducks responsibility by saying, “Due to time and resource constraints, the CAR team did not investigate indirect costs.” Fine. To be real, though, what good is a report that only looks at some of the important data?