On Friday, President Obama announced a new plan to cut carbon pollution and save money at the pump by increasing fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for new cars and light trucks. After much negotiation, support for more fuel-efficient cars also came from 13 large auto manufacturers and the United Auto Workers union, all recognizing the potential for job growth.
The auto industry has said there isn’t a technological barrier to more fuel-efficient vehicles and instead blamed consumer demand, but that’s all changing. A dwindling supply of oil that is increasingly dangerous to obtain, rising gas prices and concern over global temperatures now make more mpgs attractive to the majority of Americans. According to a recent poll by the Pew Clean Energy Program, 82 percent of national voters supported an increased fuel efficiency standard of 56 mpg by 2025. Even more encouraging is the diverse base support that included 70 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Democrats and 88 percent of independents.
So what does this 54.5 magic number mean? Besides being able to go about twice as far on a tank gas, it signals a significant movement away from our nation’s dependency on oil. Luckily, we don’t have to wait over a decade to start seeing benefits of more mpgs. The 54.5 standard builds off an earlier agreement that requires cars built between 2012 and 2016 to achieve 35.5 mpg.
According to the White House “These programs, combined with the model year 2011 light truck standard, represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in three decades. Together, they will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 result in an average fuel savings of over $8,000 per vehicle. Additionally, these programs will dramatically cut the oil we consume, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC every day.” A 54.5 mpg standard will cut more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the life of the program—that’s more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States last year alone. At a time when attacks on the environment are polarizing Washington, it’s encouraging that Americans are finding common ground and recognizing that sustainable practices will take us all farther.