In its latest environmental policy rollback, the EPA announced it will scrap Obama-era fuel efficiency standards that would have doubled fuel efficiency to over 50 miles per gallon by 2025. That car companies support the rollback may not sound surprising—but it contrasts drastically with their public pledges about air pollution and climate change. Environmental group InfluenceMap has released a new report that catalogs all the contradictory statements from automotive titans like Toyota, Honda, Ford, and General Motors. In late 2017, automakers were almost simultaneously asking the EPA to weaken the standards while publicly making bold claims about their commitment to build low- and zero-emission vehicles.
“The information Toyota has provided . . . demonstrates the 2022-2025 . . . requirements are not appropriate,” the automaker wrote in October. But in November, its website claimed, “Toyota has decided to challenge itself to reduce vehicle GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions by 90% in comparison with 2010 levels by 2050.” These statements are not necessarily incompatible: 2050 is a lot farther away than 2025. Maybe Toyota is just saying it needs to move at a slower pace. But Toyota is one of the major carmakers that worked out the vehicle emission standards regime with the Obama administration in 2012. Since then, oil prices have fallen, and craving for gas guzzlers has risen.
Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) advocacy organization charges that the automakers resort to junk science. The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers (including Toyota and the Big 3 U.S. carmakers) commissioned a report that UCS says is based on academic papers funded by the auto industry, and that doesn’t reflect the best science. “Rather than summarizing the most recent body of research on climate impacts . . . the report cherry-picks studies to weaken the case for acting on climate and reducing emissions from vehicles, either by selecting outliers or misconstruing the findings of the research,” writes UCS.