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 Fall 2011

Perspective

Going the Extra Mile (per Gallon)

Last July, I was invited to Washington, DC, by the Obama administration to hear some good news about the nation’s passenger vehicles. For the second time since being elected, the president had brought automakers to the table to help develop strong fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks. This collaboration had again paid impressive dividends. The new proposal, which will apply to vehicles sold in model years 2017 to 2025, caps global warming pollution at 163 grams per mile by 2025—the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) if all improvements were met through fuel efficiency.

Meeting these standards will unleash innovation in the auto industry, encouraging automakers to use more-efficient engines, smarter transmissions, lightweight materials, and other technologies capable of producing cars, trucks, and SUVs that consume less fuel and generate less pollution. These advances will also help put more hybrid gasoline-electric and all-electric vehicles on the road.

Cleaner vehicles will reap numerous benefits for the environment and the economy. For example, UCS analysis shows the proposed standards will cut U.S. oil consumption as much as 1.5 million barrels per day by 2030—about as much as we currently import from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Americans will collectively save $50 billion (even after accounting for the added cost of fuel-saving technologies) in 2030 as a result, and prevent as much as 280 million metric tons of heat-trapping emissions from entering the atmosphere—equivalent to shutting down 72 coal-fired power plants.

UCS has long played a lead role in the fight to reduce the environmental impact of our cars and trucks, and this most recent victory is no exception; our combination of timely analysis, persuasive advocacy, and outreach to new allies (such as the United Auto Workers) were critical in shaping the new standards. We still have important work left to do before the standards are finalized next year: working with our members, policy makers, and others to build support for a strong final rule free of loopholes—just as we did for the heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency and emissions standards finalized in August.

With a push from the government and groups including UCS, American technology can take fuel economy even further—to 60 mpg and beyond. The president’s announcement gets us moving toward that goal, and we look forward to hitting the accelerator pedal in the months ahead.  

Kevin Knobloch, president