Thursday, March 24, 2022

Decades of Lobbying Weakened Americans’ Gas Mileage and Turbocharged Pain at the Pump

I suggest reading the whole article.

 I have a Nissan Versa.  I found years ago that when I only half fill a car's gas tank, I get better gas mileage than filling it up.  It would be surprising if that were not so, because the more gasoline in the tank, the more has to be used to carry around the gas.  In my current car, when the indicator shows I am running low, I have been putting in $8.  My mileage had been about 32.3 mpg, shown on the trip mileage gauge.  Since prices have increased, the $8 buys less gas, and my mileage had increased to more than 33 mpg.  The most recent mileage was 35mpg.


By Sharon Kelly
Mar 18, 2022 @ 09:57 PDT


The pain at the pump for American drivers has roots that run deeper than today’s crisis. In recent years, while fracking’s supporters were shouting “drill baby drill” the oil industry began lobbying behind the scenes to undercut programs designed to make vehicles more fuel efficient or less reliant on fossil fuels. Alongside automakers, they helped pave the way for a boom in gas guzzlers that attracted consumers when gas prices were relatively low: In 2021, a stunning 78 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States were SUVs or trucks, according to the Wall Street Journal. American carmakers like Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler have nearly abandoned making sedans for U.S. drivers altogether.


Federal rules shape the menu of options offered to consumers by requiring automakers to achieve fleet-wide averages on fuel efficiency. A quick look back shows the oil industry’s fingerprints (alongside those of car manufacturers) on gambits to grind down those fuel efficiency standards, leaving everyday Americans more dependent on oil.


A November 2021 Environmental Protection Agency report touts the climb in fuel efficiency in 2020, noting a 0.5 mile-per-gallon gain to 25.4 MPG, “a record high.” But efficiency advocates noted those numbers actually fell short of federal targets, faulting loopholes in the law that they say promote larger vehicles.

“We’re facing a climate crisis, yet automakers are producing cars that are barely more fuel efficient on average than what they sold a year earlier, even as technology improves,” Avi Mersky, senior transportation researcher for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said in a statement that month. “They’re following the letter of the standards but exploiting all the weaknesses in the regulation to keep making gas guzzlers. It’s terrible for the climate and it costs drivers at the pump, especially now as gas prices are increasing.”


as President Trump entered office, some oil refiners also began to involve themselves in fighting auto efficiency regulations. In 2018, the New York Times uncovered lobbying efforts by oil companies and the Koch network.


A number of organizations with ties to the Koch network also joined in lobbying to weaken clean car standards, as DeSmog previously reported. In March 2018, representatives from 11 groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the 60 Plus Association, Frontiers of Freedom, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to prevent California from setting its own fuel efficiency standards.

Koch Industries itself, the Times found, even lobbied to repeal CAFE standards entirely.

The subsequent Trump rollbacks (which reduced plans for fleetwide averages to hit roughly 55 MPG by 2025 to about 40 MPG by 2026) had significant impacts, said Tonachel. “It was a huge setback in terms of the innovation signal to the market and the opportunity for consumers to have access to cleaner, more efficient vehicles,” he said. “It cost consumers money at the pump as well as putting us in reverse in terms of addressing climate change.”

Over the past year, the Biden administration began unwinding moves made by President Trump to loosen fuel economy standards. “We’re now headed back in the right direction,” said Tonachel, adding that the administration’s goal of having 50 percent of car sales be zero emission vehicles by 2030 is “actually the minimum of what we should be doing.”

Nonetheless, the Trump-era rollbacks have continued to echo. Not only did they impact cars on the road today, Becker noted, they were also used by auto lobbyists to argue for weaker standards in California, whose authority to regulate car emissions was recently restored.

The notion of oil abundance was never a good reason to loosen fuel standards, efficiency advocates said.

“Even if there’s an abundance of fossil fuels, if we burn it, we’re burning the planet,” Tonachel said. “There’s no basis to burn more of it when we’re in a climate crisis.”


 A poll by Consumer Reports last year found that 89 percent of U.S. drivers supported improving fuel efficiency for pickup trucks, SUVs, and other vehicles. “Car buyers expect new vehicles to be more fuel efficient, but automakers are failing to deliver what their customers want,” David Friedman, Consumer Reports’ VP of advocacy, said as that poll was released.

But as lawmakers consider ways to reduce oil dependence following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, some Koch-linked organizations have re-entered the fray. On March 8, Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, also linked to Koch, testified at a congressional hearing on electric vehicles, faulting the concept of an energy transition for higher prices.


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