Cleaner cars: coming to a road near you

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | May 19, 2009 | Climate Change, Coal, Energy Policy

After decades idling in the slow lane, our nation’s automotive policies are finally on a fast-track.  Surrounded by auto makers and executives, President Obama announced today that his administration will craft a single new national standard to improve automotive emissions and increase the mileage of cars and light trucks:

“For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America,” the president said in the Rose Garden ceremony today.

By combining California’s tough new emissions rules with steadily-increasing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, consumers will be able to purchase cars and light trucks that are more than 30 percent cleaner and more fuel-efficient by the middle of next decade.  On average, cars would get about 42 miles to the gallon by 2016 and light trucks would have to meet an average of 26 miles a the gallon by 2016.  According to the White House, the program will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce global warming pollution by 900 million metric tons, equivalent to eliminating the pollution from 177 million of today’s cars or 194 coal plants.

While consumers will welcome the savings realized by reduced fuel consumption, today’s most important outcome is that the United States government has finally taken an essential step towards addressing climate change by imposing the first-ever limits on climate-altering pollution from cars and trucks.

To avoid the most dangerous impacts from a warming atmosphere, we will need to limit pollution from other sources, as well.  This week, Congress begins consideration of a bill to regulate emissions in other sectors, such as utilities and industry, through the American Clean Energy & Security Act.  Nevertheless, the administration’s proposal is a welcome and critical first step.

People like their cars, and car manufacturers like making cars for us to drive.  Obama’s proposal, and the willingness of auto industry executives and union workers to support, demonstrates more clearly than ever that the future of the American auto industry lies in making cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles that can reduce global warming pollution, lessen our dependence on oil and save consumers money at the pump.

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