On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, our troops have been held in the deadly grip of gasoline for more than fifteen years. Reliant on the fuel to power almost all trucks, tanks, and generators, American service members must transport the resource in big fuel convoys across dangerous territories, leaving themselves constantly at risk of attack. Veterans like former Army Captain Jonathan Gensler have painful memories of burying friends struck by roadside bombs along these routes in Iraq—bombs that were themselves likely financed and deployed thanks to oil profits in the hands of our enemies.
To our troops, every mile further that a truck can go before having to refuel saves American lives. Fuel efficiency isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.
Earlier this week, Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will be rolling back Obama-era fuel economy standards that were set to raise the average fuel economy of our vehicles to more than 40 miles per gallon by 2025.
Though we may not all be on the battlefield, Americans will soon feel the pain of this misguided decision. We’ll see the damage in our wallets at the gas pump, the competitiveness of our auto industry, and the coming dangers of a rapidly changing climate. This decision to reopen these standards to further review and weakening represents the latest move by the Trump Administration to rollback progress and leave our country insecure.
To most of us, it’s common sense that more efficient vehicles will save money by getting our vehicles farther on less fuel in the tank. In fact, a recent survey shows that nearly 9 in 10 consumers want automakers to improve vehicle fuel efficiency, and 79 percent want to shoot for 40 miles/gallon efficiency by 2025. Who wouldn’t want their vehicle to go 15 miles further for each gallon of gas?
The standard that the Trump Administration is determined to rollback would have saved Americans $92 billion at the pump. That is money that every family could use to make their personal finances more secure and to save for investments like education and retirement that will strengthen our communities in the long-term.
But Americans won’t only be paying for this repeal in their tanks because weaker standards will also have a big effect on jobs and the economy. Already, there are more than 288,000 workers who manufacture fuel efficient vehicle parts, and further innovation in these technologies could have created another 100,000 jobs by 2025. And with China, Europe, and other countries already adopting fuel efficiency standards, any less efficient American vehicles won’t be as competitive on the global market. That puts American workers and automobiles at risk, when instead we should be innovating the technologies and jobs of the future.
Finally, less efficient vehicles will lead to much more oil consumed and far more greenhouse gases emitted, which is bad news for our attempts to halt global climate change. The transportation sector is one of the biggest contributors of American emissions, and the fuel efficiency standards alone would have cut our country’s greenhouse emissions by 6 billion metric tons by 2025.
Our president may ignore the looming consequences of climate change, but this is yet another threat that our military cannot afford to ignore on the battlefield. National security leaders recognize that climate change is a destabilizing “threat multiplier” that makes already dangerous situations worse and can add pressure to conflict hotspots around the world.
The last thing that American citizens—or our troops—need are more costly and inefficient vehicles that contribute to weakening our economy and environment in the long-term. We want common-sense fuel efficiency standards to save the money in our pockets, bring good jobs to Americans, and help safeguard the planet at the same time.
Our veterans and everyday Americans understand the importance of efficiency and innovation to our long-term stability. It’s time that EPA Administrator Pruitt, and the entire Trump Administration, take our security seriously.
Kate Guy is the Policy Program Manager at Truman National Security Project and Truman Center, with a focus on climate and energy security policies. Views expressed are her own.