Would you like to save money, protect everyone’s health and benefit our environment? Here’s the easiest way to achieve all that –  use less fossil fuel by being more efficient. It is also the simplest way to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Increasing fuel efficiency is even more important now because new research shows that production and use of biofuels (another effort to reduce fossil fuel usage) cause more harm than benefit to the environment. While researchers continue to work on alternatives to fossil fuels, it’s important that we simultaneously continue to improve efficiency standards and reap the accompanying health, environmental and economic benefits.

With all the benefits that come with greater fuel efficiency, you’re likely asking yourself, "Who could be against this?" Unfortunately, it’s our current acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler is continuing the fight of rolling back corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, which require automakers to achieve certain fuel economy standards across their fleets. If fulfilled, rolling back CAFE standards will jeopardize our health and quality of life, disrupt local highway planning efforts, harm Idaho’s environment and impair our economy. Here’s how.

Unnecessary Risk to Our Health and Environment

Less efficient vehicles burn more fuel, which in turn releases more air pollutants. These pollutants put us at a greater risk of violating the federal air quality standards – standards that were put in place to protect our health. Exceeding these thresholds can cause a variety of short- and long-term health problems. Not only is this harmful to individual members of a community, but poor air quality also places a greater stress on Idaho’s medical facilities that must treat increasing numbers of people struggling with related health issues.

Negative Effects on Our Economy

Rolling back CAFE standards increases the likelihood of areas being designated as "nonattainment areas" under the Clean Air Act. A nonattainment area has unsafe levels of air pollution. All existing air emissions get capped in these regions, leaving little room for new or expanding industries. To offset air pollution, stricter emissions limits are often placed on industrial facilities  to make up for other, less controllable polluting sources such as transportation. Together, these factors make nonattainment areas  economically unappealing to new and expanding industries.

Another negative economic impact comes from the fact that Idaho largely imports fuel from other states. While Idaho is experiencing some oil and gas development, this activity has primarily produced natural gas rather than oil. Based on current data, it appears unlikely that our state will ever produce oil, let alone in quantities to meet our demand. Simply put, cars that get poor gas mileage cost Idaho money. Forcing our citizens to spend more money on fuel sends this money out of state, instead of making it available for purchasing Idaho’s goods and services.

Poor Use of Taxpayers’ Money

When new standards are put in place, cities and state agencies must create plans demonstrating how they will comply with the new limits. Current air quality plans use the existing CAFE standards. If the CAFE standards are rolled back, Idaho’s state and local plans may be invalidated,  meaning that we’d have to start over and create new plans. Not only is this a waste of taxpayers’ money, this could also significantly affect what sorts of economic, highway and community growth can occur throughout our state.

Tell the EPA You Support Better Fuel Economy Standards

The EPA is asking the public to comment on its proposed rollback of CAFE standards.   Comments are due by Oct. 2.   Now’s the time to tell the EPA you  support more fuel-efficient vehicles.