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August 01, 2011

Strong New Fuel Efficiency Standards Announced

Obama announces 54.5 mpg On Friday, President Obama announced a plan to strengthen fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards for new cars and light trucks to 54.5 mpg by 2025.  Backdropped by an array of high mileage vehicles, the announcement was quite the celebratory event that brought together automakers, auto workers, our go60mpg coalition, staff from EPA, DOT and the White House and members of Congress. 

As we celebrated on Friday, it is worth remembering that fuel efficiency standards for new cars stalled out for more than two decades.  But in a little more than two years in office, President Obama has ensured 15 years of momentum that will double the fuel efficiency of our cars and light trucks and significantly cut tailpipe carbon pollution.

These standards are an important step in moving American beyond oil – one that Americans strongly support.   Americans sent the Obama administration nearly 300,000 Go60 Photo_kidssandmessages calling for a strong 60 mpg standard.  The President is moving forward on his promise to save consumers money at the gas pump, cut pollution, and end our addiction to oil.

Americans from all walks of life weighed in - from mothers worried about their children's future, to veterans concerned about putting more of our troops in harm's way.  It's clear that Americans want to end our dangerous addiction to oil by making our cars and light trucks as efficient as possible.

Take Brenna Pink for example. She's greatly concerned about her 6-year-old son Rocco's future.  In her Seattle neighborhood, no access to rail, buses or trains to get across town means she's solely dependent on her car to bring Rocco to school or summer camp, and to do errands.  While this means that skyrocketing gas prices are already cutting into her family's quality of life now, it's years down the road that worry her most.

"My husband and I are trying our best to make sure Rocco can enjoy a bright future," wrote Pink in a recent Seattle Times op-ed.  "We have health insurance, we've started a college fund, and if available, we'd want to get him 'environmental insurance,' so to speak. I expect our decision makers to handle that one…and I urge President Obama to rise to the occasion and deliver on his campaign promise to significantly cut our oil addiction."

For Thomas Buonomo, making 60 mpg cars the norm is critical to our national security.  As a former U.S. Army Intelligence Officer, he has seen the physical and psychological consequences of war firsthand.  He believes that dramatically cutting our oil addiction is essential to cutting our reliance on foreign nations for fuel and reducing the number of troops we need to secure oil supplies.

Another veteran and retired postal worker, Mike Lavey of Cortez, CO, is taking cutting our oil addiction into his own hands.  He works as a driver for the Montezuma County Public Transportation facility in Southwest Colorado and bikes his 10-mile roundtrip commute to work every day.

Go60 _photo_gasstation "At work, I get to help other folks here in Cortez get around town without having to fill up at the gas pump," wrote Lavey in the Cortez Journal. "[But] there are still millions of Americans who are forced to take cars to get where they need to go.  Those folks should not have to drive a 2-ton gas guzzler just to go a few miles down the road."

Many other Americans are frustrated about how, in spite of the dangerous consequences of our oil addiction, U.S. automakers have stalled out on the road to better fuel efficiency.  Lisa Huff, a state employee in Knoxville, TN, drives a 1989 Honda Civic that gets 40 miles per gallon on the highway, more than 10 mpg better than today’s average cars.  "It's a shame that 22 years after my old Civic left the dealership, it's still getting way better gas mileage that most new cars on the road today," wrote Huff in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Go60 Photo_gaspump Americans want better and know that American technology and innovation can get us there.  This did not stop the auto industry from launching a PR campaign built on misinformation and spin aimed at getting the weakest possible proposal. 

Fortunately the Administration did not cave into the auto industry's "can't do" message, but the industry did secure loopholes and provisions that must be fixed over the next year.  A 54.5 mpg standard will save consumers money at the gas pump and cut our need for foreign oil, but to deliver, the final rule must be strong.

American carmakers have the technology today to get to at least 60 mpg by 2025; European carmakers are already set to get there by 2020. Automakers must be challenged to not just meet but exceed the standards. To get the most of 54.5 mpg we will have to work to eliminate any loopholes that weaken the standards and force us to use more oil and emit more life-threatening pollution. Americans from across the country weighed in with nearly 300,000 actions and we will need an even louder chorus to ensure that the final standards as strong as they can be.

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign

--Photo 1 is from Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.  Other photos are anonymous submissions from the Go60 photo petition.


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