On a drizzly day in January 2018, Jeff Alson, an engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency’s motor-vehicles office, gathered with his colleagues to make a video call to Washington, D.C….They had made the same call dozens of times before.
Speaking from Washington, James Tamm, the NHTSA fuel-economy chief, greeted the EPA team, then put a spreadsheet on-screen. It showed an analysis of the tailpipe rules’ estimated costs and benefits. Alson had worked on this kind of study so many times that he could recall some of the key numbers “by heart,” he later told me.
Yet as Alson looked closer, he realized that this study was like none he had seen before. For years, both NHTSA and the EPA had found that the tailpipe rules saved lives during car accidents because they reduced the weight—and, with it, the lethality—of the heaviest SUVs. In 2015, an outside panel of experts concurred with them….But this new study asserted the opposite: The Obama-era rules, it claimed, killed almost 1,000 people a year.
“Oh my God,” Alson said upon seeing the numbers. The other EPA engineers in the room gasped and started to point out other shocking claims on Tamm’s slide. (Their line was muted.) It seemed as if every estimated cost had ballooned, while every estimated benefit had shrunk. Something in the study had gone deeply wrong.
As you may expect, should expect, it wasn’t an accident. Trump’s flunkies produced a report filled with lies designed to improve the profit structure for companies selling cars into the US market. And screwing the rest of the nation firmly to the wall of carbon pollution. Another Trump trophy for deceit and greed.