Last December, the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) put out an analysis that said that the higher MPG standards the Obama administration was considering would cause the auto industry to lose jobs. That's the kind of message that some groups like to promote, so it wasn't a surprise to see the study quoted by groups like the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and National Automobile Dealers Association. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), on the other hand, wants everyone to stop citing the CAR study because, well, UCS found that CAR's findings were seriously flawed. CAR tacitly acknowledged this when it took the December report off of its website, but when a revised report went up earlier this month, UCS stepped up its game.

UCS' takeaway point is that CAR overestimated how much new fuel efficient technologies will cost consumers and underestimated how much money people would save if CAFE fuel economy levels were increased to 56 miles per gallon by 2025. Therefore, this week, the director of the UCS' Clean Vehicles Program, Michelle Robinson, sent a letter to the Alliance about the issue. It reads, in part:

[CAR's] analysis was thoroughly discredited by a report published by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT), which found that CAR had made faulty use of data along with basic technical and mathematical errors. As a result of these errors, ICCT stated that the analysis "overstates increases in average vehicle cost and systematically underestimates fuel savings." Following the critique by ICCT, the analysis was removed from CAR's website.

Even though CAR took the original study down and changed it, the "oh noes! better mpg kills jobs!" fire will continue to spread each time someone cites it or the revised but still flawed second edition. You can read UCS' full letter after the jump.

[Source: Union of Concerned Scientists | Image: mikebaird – C.C. License 2.0]

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June 27, 2011

John T. Whatley Interim Chief Executive Officer Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers 1401 Eye Street, NW, Suite 900 Washington, DC 20005

Dear Mr. Whatley:

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers recently sent a letter to Secretary LaHood and Administrator Jackson raising concerns regarding the creation of new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards covering model years 2017-2025. In your letter, you stressed that the next phase of standards must be based on sound science, independent analysis, and robust data. We completely agree that credible, accurate analysis should inform this decision.

As a result, we were disappointed that your letter cited analysis by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) to claim that the strongest standards under consideration – a 6 percent annual reduction in auto pollution – would result in lost jobs within the auto industry. This analysis was thoroughly discredited by a report published by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT), which found that CAR had made faulty use of data along with basic technical and mathematical errors. As a result of these errors, ICCT stated that the analysis "overstates increases in average vehicle cost and systematically underestimates fuel savings."1 Following the critique by ICCT, the analysis was removed from CAR's website.

Recently, CAR published new analysis. Unfortunately, this latest version continues to dismiss basic facts, relies on flawed data, and makes carefully selected assumptions to arrive at a predetermined result. Specifically, the new analysis contains at least six basic flaws that inflate the cost of a 6 percent standard by $8,500 and decrease fuel savings by $2,100. Correcting just these errors, completely changes the findings, resulting in net savings to consumers within five years, which would increase sales and create more auto industry jobs. Further, the report evidences its bias by accusing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of "overruling" Congress and refers to standards as "extreme" and a "tax on consumers."

Given the severe flaws and bias within the CAR analysis, we urge the Alliance to refrain from citing it to support your policy positions. Such claims would not be based on sound science, but instead on discredited analysis that has no place in this important rulemaking.

Strong standards offer our best chance to protect Americans from rising gas prices, sustain the auto industry's economic recovery, clean up our air, and break America's dangerous oil dependence. The success of the 2012-2016 standards shows that the National Program can deliver strong standards while also providing the industry with the structure it needs to achieve those standards. As the process moves forward, we hope that the Alliance will refrain from citing discredited analysis, such as the CAR study, and join us in encouraging the agencies to set the strongest possible standard based on sound science, independent analysis, and robust data.

Sincerely,
Michelle Robinson
Director
Clean Vehicles Program
Union of Concerned Scientists

1 http://www.theicct.org/2011/03/car-2025-forecast-analysis


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