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It's about time

Editorial for May 28, 2009

On May 19, President Barack Obama proposed sharply improved fuel mileage standards for cars manufactured in the United States.

The plan offered by the president will significantly raise the fuel efficiency of new automobiles and trucks. The first mileage benefits will show up in 2011 automobiles and trucks, and by 2016 will have raised the fuel efficiency standards of new vehicles by a full 30 percent.

This move is so sensible, progressive, and productive, we can only wonder why it took so long for our national leaders to finally take action.

First, this will increase the mileage American drivers will get. Instead of 19 or 20 miles per gallon of gas, once this regulation fully kicks in, Americans will be getting an average of about 35 miles per gallon -- 39 miles per gallon for cars, and 30 miles per gallon for light trucks. With the exception of the oil companies, who could be against that?

Further, the action being put forward by President Obama will offer two critical side-benefits: It will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, which have contributed to global warming; and it will make it easier for the United States to get away from its dreadful addiction to foreign oil.

Experts have estimated that raising the fuel mileage standards will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the next five years -- which is more oil than our country imports from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Venezuela, and Nigeria combined.

There is no good reason why American's auto manufacturers have not taken this step on their own. The technology to improve fuel mileage has long been available, but largely ignored. And the fuel-hogs that have been produced and marketed to the public in recent years represent one of the reasons our auto industry has hit the rocks.

To their credit, however, the nation's auto manufacturers are now fully (and finally) on board with the call for increased fuel mileage standards. Even the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has embraced Obama's decision.

This step by the president represents a striking change from the recent past. For years, California and 13 other states had been involved in an expensive legal effort to set tougher fuel-efficiency and tailpipe emission standards than the federal government had set -- but, under the Bush administration, the federal government and the auto companies had vigorously fought the initiatives of those states. Clearly, the political landscape has changed.

Obama's forward-looking action is good for the economy, good for consumers, and good for the environment.



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