Consumers, Small Businesses, and Congress Members Voice Support for 54.5 mpg

[This blog amended on 11/16 10 am pdt to update the number of House member signers from 108 yesterday to 111 today.]

This week, perhaps as early as tomorrow, the Obama administration is expected to release the official regulatory proposal to strengthen carbon and fuel efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks build between 2017 and 2025. New polls from consumers and small business groups, and a letter from House members demonstrate that public and political support for the standards remains strong.

The new standards were originally announced on July 30 by the President with the support of 13 automakers and many other stakeholders. These standards are expected to deliver the equivalent of 54.5 mpg by 2025 and cut carbon pollution from new cars and light trucks in half. We expect the details of the proposal to be consistent with the Supplemental Notice of Intent released July 30th, which I summarized in an earlier blog.

Strengthening standards will deliver tremendous consumer, energy and pollution benefits. So it’s no surprise it enjoys virtually unprecedented breadth and depth of support across the economic and political spectrum, from automakers to environmentalists, Republicans to Democrats, consumer advocates to energy security advocates, business leaders to labor unions.

The few opponents—some members of Congress (led by Darrell Issa, R-Calif, and Steve Austria, R-Ohio) and the National Auto Dealers Association--are badly out of step with public support for stronger standards and the consumer demand for fuel-efficient cars.

New polls finds Consumers and Small Businesses Support Strong Standards

Consumers have spoken: They overwhelming support 55 mpg and continue to demand fuel-efficient cars.

  • Consumers support strong standards. The highly respected consumer advocacy group, Consumer Reports, just released on monday a new poll that found 80 percent of consumers agreed that “fuel economy standards should require auto manufacturers to increase the overall fleet average to at least 55 miles per gallon by 2025…”
  • Consumers are demanding fuel-efficient vehicles. According to the latest survey from industry research and forecasting company, the average fuel economy of light vehicles sold in October rose to 22.2 miles per gallon in October compared to 21.5 mpg in the year-earlier period.

Small businesses also understand that enhanced fuel efficiency is good for the economy. According to a poll released just today by the Small Business Majority, 80 percent of small businesses surveyed support a 60 mpg standard by 2025.

111 House members support strong standards

Despite the overwhelming support, some in Congress have not given up their quixotic quest to block the standards. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., continues his “investigation” of the agreement.  Rep. Steve Austria, R-Ohio, has not dropped his amendment to block EPA from implementing the standards.

Just today a new House letter expressing strong support for the new standards was sent to the President with signatures from more than 111 members of Congress, including Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass, John Dingell, D-Mich., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif. This is far more than the 66 members that signed the  letter sent October 20th to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, supporting Austria’s amendment.

Notably, key Michigan House members that in the past have sided with automakers and opposed stronger car standards are now taking a different tact, signaling the auto industry remains committed to the agreement. In fact, Rep. Dingell, D-Mich., helped co-sponsor the “dear colleague” letter urging other Congress members to sign onto the supportive letter to the President. Noticeably absent from the Austria letter is Rep. Upton, R-Mich., now Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who previously led the charge attacking EPA’s vehicles authority.

Rep. Austria was for clean cars before he was against them 

Oddly enough, Rep. Austria appears to be both for and against government programs to support the development of clean cars. At the same time he is trying to block stronger standards, he has supported a DOE battery plan loan for his district in Ohio.

Key Administration decisions on clean energy

These clean car standards combined with two other key Administration decisions on power plants and pipelines are helping to put this country on the right path to a clean energy future.

  • Early this month, the Administration announced its plan to also move forward with carbon pollution standards for new power plants. Together, cars and power plants account for half of our nation’s carbon pollution.
  • Just last week, the Administration announced it would delay its decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline pending further environmental review. The pipeline would carry tar sands from Canada and keep America and the world dangerously dependent on even dirtier forms of oil.

The proposed clean car standards for 2017 to 2025 demonstrates how leadership, partnership, and compromise can help solve the enormous environmental, economic and energy challenges facing our country.  Unfortunately, Reps. Issa and Austria and the National Auto Dealers Association, for reasons unclear to me, are attempting to block the program, drive up fuel costs, increase air pollution and make us more dependent on oil.