New gas mileage standards will boost the economy

The report shows that the standards proposed by the administration will create 484,000 new jobs in 2030, including 43,000 in the auto sector alone. It finds that 49 states will experience a net gain in jobs. And for America’s families, the news is good as well: the proposed standards will save consumers $107 billion at the pump.


ADVERTISEMENT
Even bigger gains can be achieved by ensuring that the standards are as strong as possible. Our study showed that a standard of 60 mpg would have created even more jobs — an extra 216,000 jobs — compared to 54.5 mpg. And consumers would have saved more at the pump – $152 billion in 2030 — with a 60 mpg standard.

Don’t be fooled by the naysayers. Dramatically higher mileage is technologically feasible. John DeCicco at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute found that if carmakers optimize available and affordable technologies, fleet-wide average fuel efficiency could reach 74 mpg over the next 25 years. Still, Friday’s agreement nearly doubles fuel economy across the U.S. automotive fleet.

The fact that automaker CEOs joined the President for the announcement sends a powerful message. The auto industry has often fought innovation — such as catalytic converters for reducing smog — claiming they would hurt profits. This time they backed the new standard, as well as the last round of passenger vehicle standards, in a very public way, and that speaks volumes.

Friday’s breakthrough is especially important because American carmakers are behind much of the rest of the world when it comes to investing in higher fuel economy. China, for example, plans to spend $15 billion on cleaner cars over the next decade, with a target of 52 mpg by 2020. The European Union is requiring the equivalent of 60 mpg by 2020. US manufacturers are moving forward, but in a globally competitive market they have some catching up to do.

But truth be told, when you give American businesses a challenge, they usually meet it. Whether it’s getting the lead out of gasoline, banning ozone-depleting chemicals from spray cans, or installing air bags in new cars, industry has proven time and again that it can meet new standards and be profitable at the same time. In fact, a recent Citi Investment Research report found that under a 42 mpg standard in 2020, the auto industry, particularly the Big Three and their key suppliers, would see increased profits.

In this tough economy, 54.5 mpg offers a ray of light. Higher standards for clean progress will unleash innovation and get capital flowing—and that means Americans can get back to work.

Mindy Lubber is president of Ceres, a leading coalition of investors and public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as climate change. Ceres commissioned the report, More Jobs Per Gallon, by Management Information Services, Inc.