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EPA urged to continue to increase fuel efficiency standards

A car is filled with gasoline at a gas station pump REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files
A car is filled with gasoline at a gas station pump REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Maintaining current clean car standards will create jobs in technology and innovation, save Iowans money and protect their health and the environment, speakers opposed to the proposed freeze of federal fuel efficiency rules said Tuesday at news conference.

Representatives of the United Steelworkers, faith-based climate change activists and elected officials condemned a proposal by the Trump administration, Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They also called on Sen. Joni Ernst, who sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has oversight of the EPA, to defend the current standards.

President Donald Trump has proposed freezing the standards rather than continue to increase them. President Barack Obama’s administration mandated the fleetwide fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and light trucks be increased to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

A 2017 federal cost-benefit analysis said the benefits exceeded costs by $90 billion.

Trump has proposed freezing the standards at their current level through 2025 and its analysis found costs exceed benefits by more than $170 billion.

The cost to Iowans if the standards are frozen is as many as 7,400 jobs, Jeff Hartford, president of United Steelworkers 105 said at the conference at the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library.

He represents about 2,300 workers at Arconic — formerly Alcoa — near Davenport and Henniges Automotive at Keokuk.

Arconic produces aluminum skins for F-150 pickup trucks. Henniges makes door seals for Tesla.

He cited estimates that continued investment in innovation and technology could create 7,400 jobs in Iowa if the Obama-era standards remain in place.

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Clean car standards are an example of where the “morally right thing to do is also the economically smart thing to do,” according to Matt Russell of Interfaith Power and Light.

“When we focus what’s best for our state and include public health, environmental stewardship, wages and employment opportunities, and support for all families, Iowa wins and we help lead the nation in seeing a hopeful and abundant future,” he said.

Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson said that if the standards are kept in place, an average Iowa family could save $2,500 per year. Backing off the standards would be to renege on an agreement carmakers made to be bailed out after the Great Recession.

State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said Iowans spend more than $1,000 per person per year on gasoline from out of state.

“Don’t let the oil companies and foreign countries that produce oil fool you,” Hogg said. “Fuel economy standards are good for us because they save us money, create jobs and are good for your health and the environment.”

However, according to the EPA, current standards have been a factor in increasing the average cost of a new car to $35,000 or more, and keeping the current standards in place would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car.

• Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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