Toward a Generation of Green Vehicles: 60 MPG is Next Step
This spring the Barack Obama administration took a first step toward achieving a nation-wide fleet of (comparably) green vehicles. The administration officially confirmed that by the model year 2016, the US car fleet must measure up to an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon. The announcement marked the first time fuel economy standards had been raised since 1990, and remains perhaps the single largest thing the Obama administration has done to combat global warming. However much remains to be done before we’ll see truly green vehicles in this country.
A coalition of environmental groups is now urging President Obama to mandate cars achieve an average of 60 miles per gallon of gas by the year 2025. Though automakers are likely to balk at the suggestion, groups like the Sierra Club say 60 miles per gallon by 2025 is a realistic and necessary goal. In order to reach it, the Club says, the US auto fleet should consist of 15% electric vehicles and 55% hybrid cars by the new standard’s target year. Remaining conventional gas vehicles should be designed to use gasoline as efficiently as possible—rest in peace, Hummer.
Major auto companies are of course likely to fight such strong fuel economy standards, claiming they will be difficult or impossible to meet. Yet these are the same flawed arguments the auto industry used for years while opposing any increase in fuel economy at all—until it finally became apparent that the industry’s refusal to evolve was in fact pushing US car manufacturers towards ruin. The advantage to solidifying strong standards for 2025 this year is that it will give auto makers fifteen years to prepare to make their fleets more efficient. And by the time 2025 rolls around, fuel shortages and the manifestations of climate change are likely to make consumers glad for more green vehicles to choose from.
Indeed public support for a 60 mile per gallon standard is already strong, with 74% of US residents polled saying they support requiring such fuel standards by 2025. The soaring gas prices of a couple of years ago—likely a preview of things to come—have taught the US population a lesson. Consumers now understand that a slightly more expensive, but more green vehicle can be expected to pay for itself over time.
How likely is it that the 60 mile standard will actually become law? So far it’s unclear just how closely the Obama administration is listening to environmental groups. The federal government is supposed to finalize 2025 fuel economy standards sometime this fall, so it won’t be long before we find out. By adopting a strong standard, the US can take another step toward reducing national dependence on oil and guaranteeing a new generation of green vehicles. Let’s hope policymakers in the Obama administration take advantage of this historic opportunity.
Photo credit: Larry Page
Nick Engelfried is a freelance writer on climate and energy issues, and works with campuses and communities in the Pacific Northwest to reduce the causes of climate change.