Editorial: Political mileage for Obama on CAFE standards
A bit strange that President Obama waited until the Republican convention to announce finalization of one of the toughest regulations of his administration — raising national fuel economy standards for cars and trucks to an average 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025.
Conservative politicians hate regulations like these — they’d rather drill, baby, drill, and let the market determine what kinds of cars get manufactured. But if ever there was a government regulation that made sense, it’s the CAFE requirements, the stronger the better.
The more efficient our vehicle fleet, the fewer carbon emissions we’ll produce. That’s key to the battle against global warming, which the extreme weather of recent years indicates we’ve been losing. It’s also vital to respiratory and other health concerns. Cars and trucks account for 20 percent of carbon emissions, so increasing their efficiency twofold over the next 13 years should make some notable differences in air quality.
It should help in other environmental ways. There will be less pressure to drill, for oil or natural gas, in environmentally sensitive areas; and we’ll have time to develop more benign alternative sources.
Reducing oil consumption — cars and trucks account for 40 percent in this country — should also help with geopolitical concerns: The less oil we have to import, the less vulnerable we’ll be, in terms of both supply and price, if one of the volatile Mideast oil producers decides to cut production, or is forced to.
Cutting consumption should also help lower the price, but even if it doesn’t the fact that consumers will be buying roughly half what they now buy will be good for the economy. Yes, we’ll pay more for our vehicles — an estimated $1,300 more between the interim measures due to take effect in 2016 and the final ones in 2025 — but the payback will be only about three years.
Given all the other considerations, that seems well worth the cost. And this time, even the U.S. automakers don’t disagree.