54.5 miles per gallon

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That’s what the average fuel economy level for new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. will be by 2025, nearly doubling from the 28.6 mpg average required at the end of last year. The Obama Administration finalized the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards on August 28, representing what President Obama called the “single most important step” to reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil (or for that matter, any kind of oil).

The new rules, which will be phased in gradually and start getting stricter by 2017, building on a landmark 2009 deal brokered between the White House and beleaguered automakers that committed cars and trucks to averaging 25.5 mpg by 2016. According to the White House, the new rules will save families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and bring an average saving of $8,000 over the lifetime of new vehicles sold after 2025. It’s a culmination of what will likely be the Obama’s Administration’s greenest effort, even if it does win a second term: forcing the wasteful U.S. auto industry to build more efficient cars and trucks.

It’s notable—and probably not coincidental—that the White House announced the new CAFE rules on the same day that the Republican national convention in Tampa finally got going. Mitt Romney, as a I wrote yesterday on Going Green, has his own energy plan that focuses almost entirely on increasing the supply of oil and other fossil fuels, rather than conserving demand. As we endure another week of sky-high gas prices—even higher than normal now because of Hurricane Isaac poses to Gulf Coast refineries—it’s not hard to see how short-sighted that kind of one-sided energy policy is.

(MORE: The Romney Energy Plan: Drill, Baby, Drill — Again)

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