President Donald Trump’s administration believes we no longer need to conserve oil, a policy position that “threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars,” reports the Associated Press.
The policy was introduced last month in a memo from the U.S. Energy Department that lent support to Trump’s proposal to freeze fuel economy standards in 2020, far short of goals set by the previous administration.
As the AP put it, the memo received little fanfare until now:
Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked U.S. shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”
The AP says the memo made no mention of climate change, even though transportation represents the single largest source of emissions—which isn’t exactly a surprise, as Trump openly questions the existence of man-made climate change.
As you can imagine, the policy received no support from environmentalists and climate groups:
“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped – it’s time to start eating again,’” said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.
“If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere … you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”
Climate change is a “clear and present and increasing danger,” said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Trump’s proposal for fuel economy standards calls for freezing the target at 37 mpg in 2020, well short of former President Barack Obama’s goal of 46.8 mpg by 2025—a victory in its own right for oil companies.