Commentary: Finally tougher fuel emission standards

This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

It was a startling image: Auto industry executives, environmental officials and state leaders who have been at each other's throats for years over the issue of tougher fuel and emission standards gathered together Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden to celebrate . . . tougher fuel and emission standards.

They had all signed off on what some are cal-ling the single most important action the United States has taken to date against global warming: a nationwide average fuel-economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

It would require autos to average 39 mpg and light trucks 30 mpg four years earlier than previously planned. That means smaller, lighter vehicles and more that run on alternatives to oil.

The estimated effect: a savings of 1.8 billion barrels of oil through 2016 and the environmental equivalent of taking 177 million cars off the road. The average price of a car would increase by $1,300, but consumers likely would recoup that within three years through greater fuel economy. That pain would have been far less if tougher standards had been implemented earlier and phased in over a longer period.

President Barack Obama deserves much credit for pushing for the tougher standards. But the real champions here are California, Washington and 12 other states that essentially forced the federal government to finally get tough on the automakers. Led by California, the 14 states passed legislation that would have required stricter standards to apply to vehicles, but they were fought by automakers and the Bush administration on grounds that such standards should be uniform nationwide.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.