By Michelle Robinson, Union of Concerned Scientists
Whether your gifts come during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Día de Los Reyes, everyone knows it’s holiday wish-list time. The automakers know this too – you can’t turn on the tv without seeing lots of shiny new cars festooned with giant red bows. Due to the strong national fuel efficiency/emissions standards for cars and trucks we helped enact several years ago – the cars in holiday showrooms are some of the cleanest, most efficient models ever produced. The existing standards save consumers millions at the pump, cut global warming pollution by 470 million metric tons – the equivalent of shutting down 136 typical coal plants for an entire year, and would reduce oil use by over 2.4 million barrels a day by 2030.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration at the behest of the automakers and the oil industry has proposed rolling back the clean car standards – and even though automakers have been easily meeting strong standards so far, the mpg on the sticker in 2025 could actually be lower than what we enjoy today! But the American people strongly support maintaining the current standards. In fact, Consumers Union polling earlier this year found that an overwhelming majority of American adults (85%—with Republicans at 88%) agree that automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicle types.
UCS asked our supporters across the country to weigh in – so in addition to their letters to Santa, many American drivers also wrote letters to their automakers this year. Here are just a few highlights:
From GM owner, Robert from Michigan –
I am a long time GMC driver, fuel efficient cars (and in my case, trucks) benefit consumers like me who save money at the pump. Even more important, these standards are helping to cut climate pollution and push innovation forward. I want to know that you are doing your part to make sure that the next car or truck I buy is more fuel efficient than the one I am driving now. Also, as a consumer of one of your most profitable products (pickups), I can assure you I am willing to bear my fair share of the legitimate costs to minimize negative environmental impacts. You do your part in the political arena to prove your commitment to safeguarding our environment, and I’ll do mine in the marketplace.
From Ford owner, Dee (and husband Peter) from North Carolina –
My husband and I own and drive a 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid — only the third US-made car we’ve bought in our 30 years of marriage. We chose this car instead of a foreign hybrid because we were thrilled to see a US automaker heading in the right direction in making a fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicle — and we voted with our dollars to support you in that effort. It’s a great car and I’d like to see you increase your hybrid and electric vehicle offerings. I’m not alone in that! However, I was disturbed to learn that you are working with the Trump administration to try to relax the fuel economy and global warming emission standards. Don’t be foolish!! Fuel efficient cars save money on gas — but even more importantly, strict standards help to cut climate pollution, create jobs, and push innovation forward. Be a leader! In 2012, you agreed to and promised to uphold strong fuel-efficiency standards and I respected and supported your company for that stance. Don’t abandon your principles and align yourself with President Trump, whose aim of relaxing the standards is retrogressive and short-sighted. As a consumer, I urge you to stay true to your word, be a leader in designing cars for the future, and resist any effort to weaken these standards.
From Toyota owner, Carol from Massachusetts –
I am a long time Toyota owner — in fact, every car I have ever owned has been a Toyota, including my current Camry hybrid, and I have been planning to buy one for my daughter later this summer. Part of my loyalty to Toyota has been because I think of you as a relatively ethical company. So, I have been deeply disturbed to see you working with the Trump administration to try to relax the fuel economy and global warming emission standards. Global warming has already proceeded to the point that it will have very negative impacts on my daughter and people of her generation around the world. How can you renege on standards and make this problem worse?!? Fuel efficiency standards are helping to cut climate pollution, create jobs, and push innovation forward. I want to know that you are doing your part to uphold them. As a longtime loyal customer, I urge you to stay true to your word and not support any effort to weaken these standards.
From Ford investor, GM AND Toyota owner, Joy from Virginia –
I am a long time Toyota owner (one of my vehicles is a Prius), a new Chevrolet Bolt owner, a long-time investor in Ford, and a more recent investor in General Motors. I appreciate the investments these companies have made in more fuel-efficient, hybrid, and electric vehicles, and I have rewarded them with my patronage when I could find a vehicle that suited my needs. As a consumer and a citizen concerned about and acting on what climate science is telling us, I am quite disturbed to learn that many automakers are working with the Trump administration to try to relax the fuel economy and global warming emission standards. I want to know that all U. S. automakers are doing their part to make sure that the next car I buy is more fuel efficient than the one I am driving now. That goal is what has driven 2 of my last 3 vehicle purchases. In 2012 I wanted a vehicle that could beat the 30 mpg I was getting with my Camry; the Prius was the closest I could come on my budget. In 2016, if any company had offered an electric or hybrid pickup truck when I needed to replace my old one, I would not have bought the gas-hog Toyota Tacoma that I did. I had not bought a GM vehicle since 1990 because I long ago lost faith in its products, but I reversed myself in 2017 because it offered the best EV I could find for the range and money. Not only do I not believe I am all that unique among auto buyers, I believe my purchase considerations are the future. U. S. car makers need to get the message. Our country and indeed our world need the automobile industry to employ its creativity, ingenuity, and manufacturing prowess to lead us all toward a clean, emission-free transportation future. By standing with President Trump during his announcement to reopen the review process of the standards, your company is clearly leading the push to weaken them and is thereby endorsing a horrible course of action. As a consumer and past (and maybe future customer depending on what you do going forward), I urge you to stay true to your word and not support any effort to weaken these standards. And for heaven’s sake do not join the ranks of the fossil fuel industry and cover up or lie about the true risks posed by our warming climate.
These letters, just a few among over 23,000 sent to automakers over the course of a year, are a powerful testament to the deep-seated concern many have about having clean car choices in the marketplace. A car purchase is one of the most important choices a consumer can make in terms of their personal carbon footprint.
The Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the federal fuel efficiency standards is still working its way through an agency rulemaking process, so the automakers have a chance to give consumers what they’re wishing for this season – they can stop the proposed rollback and ensure that the standards remain strong and continue to drive innovation. They’ve been shown the ghosts of actions past, present, and future, and they still have a chance to turn things around this holiday season, but only if they deliver the cleaner cars they promised.