The quest for fuel-efficient cars and trucks helped bring the U.S. auto industry back from the brink of collapse. Continuing on that policy path can create 570,000 new jobs by 2030, including a projected 21,000 in Ohio and 20,000 in Michigan, at a relatively low cost to American consumers.
This week, the Obama Administration announced new standards for vehicle fuel economy. Thirteen automakers that account for 90 percent of U.S. auto sales have accepted the standards. So have parts suppliers, the United Auto Workers, and federal transportation and environmental regulators.
The standards nearly double the miles-per-gallon requirements of automakers' fleets. They represent the nation's single largest effort to combat climate-altering greenhouse gases. They improve national security by moving America closer to energy independence.
Car companies' vehicle fleets will be required to average 54.5 mpg by 2025. That doesn't mean all consumers will have to cram into subcompacts; they still will be able to opt for larger vehicles.
The fuel-economy rules are the product of an energy law enacted in 2007 under President George W. Bush. The federal bailouts in 2009 that enabled General Motors and Chrysler to emerge from bankruptcy also were tied to better fuel efficiency.
The new standards will allow U.S. automakers to compete more effectively in the global marketplace -- and, advocates say, to make job-creating investments in states such as Ohio and Michigan.
The standards will be phased in over eight years, starting in 2017. That will give buyers time to adjust to a projected average price increase of $3,000 per new car and truck to accommodate new fuel-saving technology.
Over a five-year loan, that amounts to about $50 more a month. But consumers will make up that cost, and then some, from buying less fuel. The United States will save billions of dollars on oil imported from the Middle East and elsewhere.
Vehicle fuel-efficiency standards are one piece of a carbon-reduction strategy needed to combat man-made global warming. They're a good complement to modernizing coal-fired power plants and investing in renewable energy.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the new fuel-efficiency standards will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons -- more than all of the carbon dioxide the United States spewed in 2010.
Ohio is one of the nation's largest greenhouse-gas emitters. Environmental advocates equate our state's reductions with taking 1.1 million current vehicles off the road.
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken cites a new report by three environmental groups that claims the reshaped, more fuel-efficient U.S. auto industry is responsible for a quarter of Ohio's job growth and half of Michigan's over the past three years.
Many Republicans express predictable opposition to the new rules. But GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will have a hard time convincing voters in the swing states of Ohio and Michigan that a bailed-out, more-efficient domestic auto industry is a bad thing.
Instead, the prospect of more jobs, less pollution, greater energy independence, long-term savings, and a more-competitive industry has a lot of appeal.