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Ore. Mayor: Fuel-Efficiency Rollback Would Hurt Family Pocketbooks

The Trump administration wants to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for cars at 35 miles per gallon starting in 2020. (Oregon Dept. of Transportation/Flickr)
The Trump administration wants to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for cars at 35 miles per gallon starting in 2020. (Oregon Dept. of Transportation/Flickr)
August 3, 2018

MILWAUKIE, Ore. – The Trump administration is halting the push for higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars – standards aimed at reducing a major source of greenhouse gases.

The Environmental Protection Agency says rolling back the Obama-era rules will save buyers of new vehicles about $2,000. But here in Oregon, Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba says it could actually have the opposite effect on families' pocketbooks in the long run.

"If your car gets better gas mileage, you have more money to spend on food and medicine, and all the other things that families have to spend money on,” says Gamba. “And God knows that your average family is poorer now than it was two decades ago. So, any little thing helps."

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, while more efficient vehicles cost slightly more, the gas savings would outweigh the costs by an average of $3,300 per Oregon household by 2030.

The Trump administration also says freezing the miles per gallon for cars at 35 – rather than 54 in the current standards – means people would drive less, which would lower the risk of car crashes. However, outside experts and even EPA scientists have contested this point.

Margo Oge is the former director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality in the Obama administration, and helped craft the higher fuel-efficiency rules. She notes that 30 percent of cars sold in 2017 already met the updated 2025 standards.

"We're turning a pretty rare 'win-win' program that took us years under President Obama – thousands of hours – and now, we're turning it into 'lose-lose' for everyone but the oil industry," says Oge.

In May, Oregon joined 16 other states in a lawsuit against the EPA to protect the higher fuel-efficiency standards, arguing that striking them violates the Clean Air Act. Currently, cars and light trucks are responsible for one-fifth of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR