Commentary: California's fuel economy triumph deserves praise

In a stunning turnaround, most of the American and foreign auto industry has agreed to strict nationwide fuel standards that will double gasoline mileage by 2025.

On Friday, President Barack Obama, the state of California and major automakers – with the notable exceptions of Volkswagen and Daimler, which makes Mercedes – announced the accord covering models starting in 2017 and extending through 2025.

It's an important victory for consumers, the environment and national security. By 2025, vehicles sold in the United States will average 54.5 miles per gallon, double the current 27 miles.

It might not have come about without California's tough stand on reducing greenhouse gases. The California Air Resources Board took the lead by implementing 2002 legislation by then-Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, to force automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes.

Gov. Jerry Brown rightly crowed about the agreement last week, calling California's greenhouse gas emission standard that formed the underpinning of the accord an example of an "intelligent regulation." Brown also gave credit to his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pressed for the tough standard despite former President George W. Bush's opposition.

When the Bush administration balked at permitting California to move forward with its own standards, Schwarzenegger and then- Attorney General Brown sued. Obama reversed course, not only granting California's authority to act, but also adopting California's standard as the national standard.

But that standard covers models only through 2016.

Recently, automakers began seriously working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board to develop fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles that will roll off assembly lines in 2017 and remain in place through 2025.

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