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August 28, 2012

Obama's Greenest Day

The word gridlock was coined in 1980 to describe a traffic jam, so it's fitting that one of the Obama administration's most impressive feats of gridlock-busting has been in the automotive realm. The 54.5 miles per gallon fuel-efficiency standards announced today will double the average fuel efficiency of all vehicles on the road by 2025. Not only is this "change we can believe in" -- it's also the most significant measure to get off oil by any U.S. president in four decades.

The most obvious immediate beneficiaries are American consumers, who have long been held hostage by fluctuating oil prices and gas spikes. The new standards will save vehicle owners $8,000 over the lifetime of a vehicle sold in 2025 compared with the average vehicle on the road today. And that's after factoring in the cost of new fuel-saving technology. Little wonder that three-quarters of the American public strongly supports improving fuel economy.

But did you know that these fuel-efficiency standards were also endorsed by both automakers and automobile workers? Thirteen major auto manufacturers, including Detroit's "Big Three," signed letters of commitment supporting strong standards. Who would have guessed four years ago that we would be talking about a thriving U. S. auto industry? Yet, as people upgrade their older vehicles for cleaner, more-efficient models, U.S. automakers are expecting a third straight year of double-digit sales growth in 2012. Leaders in Detroit know better than to abandon a winning strategy.

At the same time, autoworkers recognize that building more fuel-efficient vehicles will both help create new jobs and, by helping the industry thrive, better protect the jobs of current workers. The United Auto Workers, a partner in the BlueGreen Alliance that includes the Sierra Club, called the new standards a "win-win" for jobs and the environment and estimated that they will result in 570,000 new jobs.

Most exciting of all, though, are what these standards mean for the environment and the future of our planet.

Because we use so much of our oil for transportation, improving fuel efficiency is by far the most powerful tool we have for moving America beyond oil. By 2030, the new standards mean we'll be using 3.1 million fewer barrels of oil every single day -- the same amount that we imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined last year. Less oil, of course, means less pollution, less drilling, and greater energy security.

What's more, moving beyond oil is one of the most potent steps we can take to address climate disruption. In 2030, these new fuel-economy standards will cut our greenhouse gas pollution by an astounding 10 percent. By itself, that is by far the most important action any president has ever taken to reverse climate change.

All told, these standards are a high-water mark for the Obama administration, a boon to a key American industry, a godsend to American consumers, and a bold stroke against climate disruption. I'd call that a good day, and Obama's greenest day ever. (If you agree, you can thank the president here.)

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