Trump Administration Poised to Enact Stealth “Tax” on Consumers

July 31, 2018


Consumers will pay more to fuel their cars if the Trump administration moves forward with plans to roll back car fuel economy standards in place for the past six years, the region’s leading energy efficiency advocacy group warned today. The stakes are very high for all states in the region, said the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).

The Trump administration is expected to release a proposal this week to roll back vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards that have been in place since 2012. Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Heidi King are expected to publish a joint rule to roll back the successful, money-saving federal standards.

The current rules provide enormous benefits for consumers’ wallets and air quality.  Already, these standards have saved consumers nationwide more than $55 billion on fuel costs cumulatively, but when fully phased in by 2030, the standards will save consumers more than  $50 billion annually. At that time, the nation will save 23 billion gallons of gasoline every year, and reduce carbon pollution by 280 million tons a year.

In Colorado, for example, an analysis conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund found that if the administration stops further increases in fuel economy, Colorado consumers will pay a few hundred dollars less to buy a new vehicles – but will have to spend up to $5,700 more on gasoline, for a net loss of $3,000 to 5,000 per vehicle by 2030. Drivers of pickup trucks will face an even bigger penalty, of up to $8,000 per vehicle in higher gasoline costs.

“This pending action by the administration is essentially a stealth tax on American consumers, forcing them to pay more at the pump,” said Matt Frommer, senior transportation associate at SWEEP. “The average household in the Southwest will be paying $46 to $78 a month more for gasoline by 2030 because of what is in effect a ‘Trump Tax.’ And this new ‘tax’ is regressive, hitting low-income and middle-class families just as hard as higher income families.”

The map (page 2) shows the total increase in gasoline use and projected gasoline costs by state by 2030. The increase in gasoline use ranges from 619 million gallons in Wyoming to 6.7 billion gallons in Arizona. Gasoline use in the region as a whole would increase by 20 billion gallons by 2030 if the standards are rolled back. Moreover, a typical household in the region would spend about $2,800 more to purchase gasoline by 2030 if the rollback goes forward.

“The roll back in the federal fuel economy standards is totally unnecessary and not in the public interest,” said SWEEP Executive Director Howard Geller. “The auto manufacturers are making good progress in ramping up fuel efficiency in response to the standards. The average fuel economy of new, light-duty vehicles sold in 2017 was 25.2 miles per gallon, or about 25 percent higher than the average fuel economy for new vehicles in 2007. The average fuel economy will rise to 42 mpg by 2025 under existing standards. The pending action by the Trump administration will halt this progress.”

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public-interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.


Map: Trump Administration’s Pending Fuel Economy and Emissions Standards Rollback: What it Means for Fuel Use and Consumers

Source: SWEEP analysis, based on data from th U.S. DOE and the Union of Concerned Scientists