By FRANCES LAMBERTS

An unexpected accident gave me first-hand experience over two months with what President Trump’s auto mileage rollback would mean for consumers: A loan vehicle with only half the miles-per-gallon biting into household finances.

A proposal to weaken the auto mileage and emissions standards was published in the Federal Register in August. The standards had been agreed to by the auto industry in 2012, when it needed federal financial help. They would let passenger cars and trucks get close to 50 miles to the gallon, on average, by 2026, but the proposal would freeze them at their 2020 levels, thus lowering that average to just 35 mpg. It is “backing away from years of government efforts to cut Americans’ trips to the gas station and reduce unhealthy, climate-changing tailpipe emissions,” says the Associated Press,

Indeed, surpassing the electric-power sector, transportation now is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The current standards would eliminate some 500 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2030, according the Union of Concerned Scientists, and reduce oil consumption by 2.4 million barrels per day.

Climate destabilization is causing ever more severe and dangerous impacts. The scientists tell us that global greenhouse gas emissions must decline rapidly and very deeply, to zero within a few decades, if we are to avoid its worst risks. The proposal, therefore, to increase the emissions by many millions of tons would make the fight to curb climate change much harder, and much more costly in lives, land and the natural environment.

By the administration’s own estimation – although not highlighted but buried within the 515 pages of its proposal –freezing the fuel efficiency targets would cost the economy 50,000 jobs by 2030. This would result from impacts on the many auto parts supply companies which seek to innovate and improve car technology and fuel economy, to stay competitive in the international market. Since 2012 when the Obama administration began increasing the standards, jobs in automotive component manufacturing reportedly have risen by nearly 30 percent.

For Rob Jackson, in Scientific American in July, the auto mileage rollback is a “sick idea,” primarily because of the link between vehicle exhaust and human health. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study he cites, dirty air in road traffic is the number one cause of deaths – more than 50,000 — that result from air pollution every year. He holds the rollback to mean that “thousands of Americans would die unnecessarily from cardiovascular and other diseases every year. Our elderly would face more bronchitis and emphysema (and) more children would develop asthma” which, even now, affects more than one in 12.

For American drivers’ wallets, were the efficiency-standards weakening to go into effect, it reportedly would come at cost of $36 billion.

The proposal seems indefensible from many perspectives – of climate and environmental health, public health and jobs, and financial cost to consumers.

The public can provide input to the rule proposal at www.regulations.gov, citing Docket EPA-HQ-QAR-2008-0283, until October 23.