While many of us are dealing with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to sweep through countries across the world, the virus is, unfortunately, one of many things that humans are forced to deal with daily. While an invisible sickness rips through much of the world, the global climate crisis is an issue that people across the globe have been dealing with for years, even though it is a relatively “new” issue in the big picture of time.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama implemented a set of rules in 2012 that required automakers to improve fuel economy standards by at least 5% every year. This standard would have led to vehicles with the “2026” Model year averaging 54 miles per gallon.
However, this rule was recently revised and subjected to a rollback, making it 3.5% less than its intended, and environmentally-beneficial, 5% rating. This new standard brings the average rating for vehicles in 2026 to just around 40 miles per gallon, a result that will eventually burn more poisonous gas into the atmosphere. A far cry from what the previous emissions standards were, the rollback entails that a new and dangerous level of carbon emissions will be allowed to be released into the air. This amount of emissions being released into the atmosphere could set back massive amounts of environmental progress that our country has made. Meanwhile, the changes negatively affect the entire world, not just our country.
According to an article from the Verge, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates the old standard of 5% improvement over fuel efficiency year-by-year has cut CO2 emissions by half a billion metric tons and saved drivers $86 billion dollars at the pump. These numbers are according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Meanwhile, the rollback is expected to release an additional billion metric tons of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere and increase oil consumption by 2 billion barrels, along with an extra 80 billion gallons of gasoline thanks to lower MPG standards.
The time to create less efficient fuel standards for our gas and petrol-powered vehicles is not now. In all honesty (and in my personal opinion), there is not a time to do it. Our Earth is at absolute an absolute crisis, or what Michael Scott would call “Threat Level Midnight.”
The arguments for the lower emissions standards: better fuel economy creates more expensive cars at purchase, which leads to many people sticking with their current vehicles or buying used cars. These older cars usually have lower safety standards, making them less safe to drive. Apparently, lowering the fuel standards will eliminate $1,000 from the cost of a new vehicle, making more cars on the road more reliable, while providing an added boost to the economy through vehicle purchases.
The problem is, a lower sticker price does not necessarily mean less money spent throughout the life of a vehicle. A Consumer Reports study showed that if gas prices were $1.50 for the next 30 years, the newly introduced rollback “would still increase new vehicle total cost of ownership for consumers.”
Here’s the thing: It is a great idea to make new cars cheaper. Sure, everyone loves the excitement (and smell) of a brand new vehicle. I think a new car is one of my favorite things, along with a high-quality sushi meal, Good Will Hunting on a low-key Friday evening, and a great workout. However, I also like living on Earth, and I appreciate the fact that my small, rural area of Southern York County, Pennsylvania does not have too many environmental issues. Of course, there is always the occasional “coal roll” I get from someone for driving an environmentally-friendly car.
The issue is the fact that no evidence suggests this new rollback will save money in the long term, and the new standards will hurt the environment. You would think analysts, or statisticians, or number crunchers would do some sort of research regarding the long-term economic effects on this subject. Just because someone is saving $1,000 upfront on the purchase of a car, it doesn’t necessarily mean things are going to be cheaper in the long run.
The responsibility of humans to do their part to decrease environmental damage at this point is absolutely imperative. There is no reason to continue the rollback of emissions standards when climate change is a scientifically proven issue. Vehicles need to become cleaner and cleaner, and to do this, automakers need to be held responsible. They’re making enough money, and it is an absolute necessity to begin transitioning to cleaner forms of transportation.