Opinion

THE PODIUM | Rising fuel efficiency is good for our wallets — and our health

Author: Danny Katz - April 5, 2018 - Updated: April 4, 2018

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Danny Katz

Our quality of life in Colorado depends on clean air and low transportation costs – which will be undermined by the Trump administration’s recent actions to roll back fuel efficiency standards and let car companies produce less technologically advanced cars with lousier gas mileage.

Since the federal government adopted clean car standards in 2012, requiring car manufacturers to double the fuel efficiency of the cars and lights trucks they sold, the Union of Concerned Scientists calculates that Coloradans have saved $550 million at the pump and avoided putting dangerous smog-forming pollutants into our air. These savings and health benefits are poised to grow further as technology continues to advance, offering even better fuel efficiency and new electric vehicles for all of us.

For example, GM plans to launch 20 electric vehicle models by 2023, while Ford announced last month it plans to invest $11 billion in electric vehicles and hybrids, with a goal of having 40 models by 2022. These advanced vehicles are earning acclaim from mainstream car enthusiasts and Motor Trend even named Chevrolet’s Bolt the 2017 Car of the Year.

The bottom line — Coloradans are seeing huge benefits from more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles.

We need cars that save us money because transportation costs a lot. For many of us, transportation costs are the second-largest household expense after housing. AAA estimates the average cost of owning and operating a new vehicle in 2017 was $8,649.

Increasing the fuel-efficiency of vehicles saves Coloradans every time we go to the pump because we go to the pump less often. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that keeping the current fuel efficiency goals in place would save the average Colorado household $2,700 by 2030 from lower gas bills, even if you factor in a possible higher upfront price for a fuel efficient vehicle.

Electric vehicles save consumers even more to fuel up. Plug In America estimates that an average driver saves $860 a year in fuel costs driving an electric vehicle.

In a state like Colorado, where the cost of living has skyrocketed, saving consumers money every time we go to fuel our car will have a direct impact on our quality of life.

Fuel-efficient vehicles aren’t just putting money in our pockets, they are helping us clean up our air. Colorado is an outdoor state but we can’t go outdoors when the air is too dirty to breathe.

One source of air pollution that is particularly harmful is ozone pollution fueled by nitrogen oxide (NOx), which leads to smog and causes coughing, wheezing, asthma, increased risk of infection, and permanent damage to lung tissue. According to the American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air report, the Denver-Aurora area is the 8th-worst ozone-polluted in the country.

On-road vehicles contribute approximately one-third of the NOx pollution in the Denver metro area, but the more miles a car gets per gallon of gas, the less gas we’ll burn and the less NOx pollution we’ll produce per mile traveled. Since our quality of life in Colorado is directly tied to the quality of our air, fuel-efficient cars are not a luxury but a necessity.

Ultimately, the federal clean car standards save us money every time we fuel up at the pump in Colorado and result in less air pollution every time we drive because technology has allowed cars and trucks to run more efficiently and meet steadily increasing fuel efficiency standards.

But now, despite our technological advances, the Trump administration wants to roll back one of the most successful policies that saves us money and reduces air pollution. This will hurt our quality of life and is the wrong path forward.

Read The Podium weekly; it’s where prominent players in Colorado politics address the big issues of the day.

Danny Katz

Danny Katz

Danny Katz is director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), a statewide, consumer-advocacy group.