It's not surprising that people and groups concerned about air pollution, climate change and the environment in general are welcoming new gas-mileage standards for cars and trucks. But it might surprise some that many state governments and even the companies that make and sell those vehicles are also on board.
In fact, it seems that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and some of his conservative cohorts backed by Big Oil are almost the only Americans who say the new efficiency standards are not a huge step forward for the country.
The new rules finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency this week say new cars and trucks will have to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from the 28.6 mpg standard mandated last year in the first phase of President Obama's plan to raise mileage requirements. However, the way the regulations work means that, in reality, the average will be closer to 40 miles per gallon in the plan's second phase.
Along with fuel-efficiency standards already in place, the new regulations will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.
Because transportation accounts for a third of all greenhouse-gas emissions in this country, cutting back on Americans' addiction to fossil fuels will promote energy independence, help clean up polluted air a critical concern for the Salt Lake Valley and help reduce the effects of climate change.
Carmakers like the new rules because they create a certainty for the future and consistency across the country. California and 13 other states have already adopted higher mileage standards. And the companies have a range of options to meet the new standard.
A recent study by the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, estimates that the new rules will create 570,000 new American jobs by 2030 and encourage automakers to use innovative technologies that can help the United States compete for new global clean-technology manufacturing jobs.
Romney has threatened to repeal the new standards if he is elected. He says they will increase the cost of new vehicles, and he's right about that. However, lower fuel costs will go a long way toward making up any initial expenditure increase, and the benefits of cleaner air are worth far more to consumers.
It would be a serious mistake to move backward, away from the progress these new mileage rules can achieve.