As Republicans gather in Tampa, despite an imminent hurricane, to officially nominate a presidential candidate who remains mute on climate change and its potential to flood convention centers in low-lying areas, President Obama has finalized landmark new fuel-efficiency standards that will cut tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025.
The new standard will require cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon, or approximately double the average mileage of cars on the road today, over the next 13 years.
This is the third time Obama has raised fuel economy standards, building upon the 2009 goal of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The action cements the administration's commitment to reducing America's dependency on oil as part of Obama's national energy policy.
Romney's campaign was quick to respond to the announcement, highlighting the sharp contrast between the two candidates when it comes to their respective plans for powering the nation.
"Governor Romney opposes the extreme standards that President Obama has imposed, which will limit the choices available to American families. The President tells voters that his regulations will save them thousands of dollars at the pump, but always forgets to mention that the savings will be wiped out by having to pay thousands of dollars more upfront for unproven technology that they may not even want,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement.
While the Administration doesn't deny that the new standards will increase the cost of a new car, perhaps by as much as $2,000, the White House argues that the $8,000 a new car owner is forecast to save over the life of the car should more than compensate for a higher price sticker at the car dealership.
“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” President Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “It’ll strengthen our nation's energy security, it’s good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”
The nation's biggest and most influential green groups have been outspoken in their support of Obama's efforts.
Margie Alt, Executive Director of Environment America, said that "Decades from now, the clean car standards finalized today by the Obama Administration will be highlighted as a monumental turning point in America’s quest to get off oil and tackle global warming."
Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune, said "Today, President Obama has taken the most significant action by any President in history to move our country off oil and slash dangerous, climate disrupting pollution that threatens our children’s future."
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Joanna Foster is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. Her background is in ecology and evolutionary biology, and having always lived near water—be it Lake Michigan, the Indian Ocean or the North Sea—she is passionate about the conservation and restoration of this most precious resource. She is a regular contributer at the Energy and Environment blog at The New York Times, and her work has also appeared in OnEarth Magazine and at the American Museum of Natural History. TakePart.com