This Road Leads to a Clean Energy Future

Obama administration announces new goals for cleaner cars in America

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Though the Senate may be standing still, America’s roads are moving fast toward a clean-energy future.Today the Obama administration announced its goals for its next set of clean cars standards, picking up where the first clean cars program left off and stepping up gas mileage standards and tailpipe emissions controls.

Passenger cars and light trucks are responsible for 57 percent of U.S. transportation oil use and almost 60 percent of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, so we know that cutting car pollution and designing cars to get much more mileage for every gallon of gas is one of the best ways we can reduce our dangerous dependence on oil and curb climate change.

We also know that it’s good for the economy.

The first clean car standards, which raised gas mileage requirements and tightened global warming pollution limits for cars between model years 2012-2016, came more than a year and a half ago in a historic agreement with the auto industry. Those standards, which were finalized this past April, required a huge amount of leadership and political capital from the White House to ultimately win the auto industry’s support.

And it paid off: 

Automakers came out supporting the standards, which will save Americans billions of dollars at the gas pump and reduce U.S. global warming pollution by 21 percent, providing a total of $190 billion of benefits.

Today’s announcement is the first step in a new set of standards, which will cover model years 2017-2025. They will raise the bar for gas mileage requirements and carbon pollution limits. If adopted by the EPA and Department of Transportation, these standards could save up to 1.3 billion barrels of oil—that’s more than two times as much oil as we currently import from Saudi Arabia each year. They could also save up to 590 million tons of carbon emissions— that’s the annual carbon emissions of 153 coal-fired power plants.

These new standards are good for the economy, good for the air we breathe and our health, and good for our wallets. As we save gas money—to the tune of up to $7,400 per car over its lifetime—we’ll see cleaner air, healthier populations, and an improving economy that welcomes innovation instead of shuns it.

And why shouldn’t we be doing this? The technology is ready and available, and the standards mean Americans will save billions of dollars at the gas pump. They also mean that automakers will have to keep up with technology, instead of lagging behind it as they have in recent past.

Will we see the American automakers support these newer, stronger standards? They better. Our tax money is what bailed them out of bankrupcy nearly two years ago. They owe all Americans their pledge to keep up with available technology and compete in the global market, and they had better not stand in the way of us saving so much money.

Liz Judge worked at Earthjustice from 2010–2016. During that time, she worked on mountaintop removal mining, national forests, and clean water issues, and led the media and advocacy communications teams.