CAFE standards reform and the Big Green lie

CAFE standards reform and the Big Green lie


By Craig Rucker


The Trump Administration finalized its reform of the “CAFE,” or Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that impact every vehicle we buy and drive.


This is a big boost for the American economy that coincidentally arrives just in time, with the economy reeling from the emergency brought on by COVID-19.


The Obama Administration rushed out a last minute “mid-term” determination that its unrealistic CAFE standards were “adequate” in an attempt to lock in the standards before the Trump Administration took office.  The new Administration was having none of it, and immediately began reevaluating and reforming the policy.


“By making newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles more accessible for American families, more lives will be saved and more jobs will be created,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.


Senior policy analyst Bonner Cohen explains at


The rules will require U.S. cars to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5% per year for the model years 2021 through 2026, compared to a nearly 5% annual increase mandated by the Obama administration in 2012. Under the Trump rule, the projected overall industry required fuel economy for the model year 2026 will be 40.4 mpg, compared to 46.7 mpg under the 2012 Obama standards.


The ideologically driven Obama rule was not practically or technologically feasible, and as Bonner explains:


That’s exactly what the Obama administration intended to do: Create an impossible standard, “forcing” the government to step in when automakers couldn’t achieve it, and raise the price of vehicles so that people would be forced to buy a car they wouldn’t choose, or can’t afford, or turn to public transportation as a last resort, even if it didn’t meet their needs.


The usual suspects on the Left are apoplectic.  Surprised?


“The Administration is unraveling the biggest and most successful climate policy on the books, one that has also saved consumers millions of dollars in gasoline costs, cut air pollution, and helped grow the auto industry,” Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement


“Of all the bad things President Trump has done to the environment, this is the worst,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign. “He is rolling back the biggest single step any nation has taken to fight global warming, cut oil use and save money at the pump. He is rejecting cleaner, efficient cars in favor of pollution-spewing, gas-guzzling Trump-mobiles.


The truth is that left-wing math never adds up, and left-wing economics?  “Fahgettaboudit!”


Here’s the biggest myth they are pushing everywhere, and here it is coming from David Friedman from of all places Consumer Reports, a source many Americans usually trust:


At a time when many Americans are going without a paycheck, it’s unconscionable to approve a plan that will have consumers paying more for gas for years to come.


This is nonsense.  The Obama CAFE standards force car makers to average out their fleets by either building extremely expensive electric and hybrid vehicles, or alternatively buying credits from companies with a high proportion of EVs in their fleet.  Elon Musk has been raking it in.


Under the Obama rule, manufacturers that don’t meet CAFE standards are forced to buy credits from manufacturers that do.  General Motors and Fiat Chrysler purchased hundreds of millions of dollars in credits from Tesla which has no gas-fueled vehicles in its all electric fleet.  One year ago Tesla disclosed that it had operated at a loss of $702 million.  Factored into that number is $200.6 million dollars in sales of ZEV regulatory credits.  Tesla did not disclose its valuable sales of non ZEV credits.  ZEV credits are Zero emission vehicle credits mandated by a handful of states led by California.  CAFE credits are non ZEV.


In addition, the Obama standards led to vehicles with all sorts of absurdities such as smaller fuel tanks to save weight, as if forcing vehicles to make more trips to the fuel pump is anyone’s idea of efficiency.  Stripping down vehicle weight through inferior build standards is no one’s realistic idea of safety.  Auto manufacturers have even proposed replacing side view mirrors with cameras to make tiny reductions in drag.  Vehicles are being made to shut off at stops and red lights, to the consternation of those who drive them, solely to meet CAFE targets.


Peter Murphy focuses on what the reformed CAFE rule means for safety at


That means better built, safer cars overall, and more lives protected when accidents occur, compared to the prior standards.  According to data from the NHTSA, the new regulations over the next decade will save 3,300 lives and result in nearly 400,000 fewer injuries from auto accidents.


Sensible people should welcome the reforms to the CAFE standards, the big boost it means to the economy, and the safety, savings and choice it means for consumers.


This is good news just when we need it most.

Craig Rucker

Craig Rucker is a co-founder of CFACT and currently serves as its president.