Fuel efficiency: Will new rules cure US addiction to foreign oil?
President Obama on Friday unveiled fuel-efficiency standards of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 – a significant step in dealing with emissions and oil consumption.
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Energy-security experts praised the new agreement as key to reducing America's reliance on foreign oil.Skip to next paragraph
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"This is a big deal," Andrew Holland, senior fellow with the American Security Project, a bipartisan public-policy and research organization, wrote on his blog. "It is important that the United States as a whole uses less oil because the sheer volume of oil imports harms American competitiveness and drives down the value of the dollar."
The US spent at least $680 billion on oil imports in 2010, he writes. Without those imports, the US trade deficit of $497 billion in 2010 "would not have existed.” He continues, “That capital could be used for investment at home, and the export of that capital had the effect of driving down the value of the dollar."
The deal represents a compromise "win" for environmentalists, who had pushed for standards of 62 m.p.g. by 2025. Automakers initially responded that 45 m.p.g. was the highest they could go, saying the tougher standards would diminish profits and require building mainly electric and hybrid vehicles.
Some environmentalists saw the eventual deal as the best one possible under the difficult political climate in Washington.
“This is the single biggest step the president can take to lower drivers’ gas bills and cut heat-trapping pollution at the same time," said Roland Hwang, transportation director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement.
But others were less enthused, noting that loopholes could allow automakers to achieve the federal standard through technical means that save less gasoline than it might appear. For example, extra mileage credits will be granted for mild hybrid and strong hybrid pickups, and special credits will be granted for technologies such as louvered grills and solar roof cells.
"While the president’s proposal is a significant acceleration in the fight against global warming and oil addiction, it was weakened by auto industry lobbying," Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said in a statement. "Automakers have seeded it with loopholes that weaken the oil, pollution and gas-pump savings."
"By moving to 54.5 mpg, we can eliminate our reliance on Mideast oil by 2030," he said in a statement. "That's extraordinary and a great step forward for our country.”