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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, September 25, 2023

New CAFE standards good for economy

Just in time for day one of last week’s Republican National Convention, the Obama administration announced its finalized plans for fuel efficiency regulations on American car manufacturers.

The regulations push Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for new American-manufactured cars and trucks to operate at 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

At a time when gas prices sit around $4 at the pump, this initiative is far from punctual—it is long overdue.

Current regulations require manufacturers to create cars with fuel efficiencies of 28.5 miles per gallon between city and highway driving, and the next step towards fuel conservation will require vehicles to run at 35.5 mpg by 2016.

President Obama and his administration have worked with car manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to arrive at a decision both the government and automakers find feasible, yet Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called the plan “extreme,” saying Americans will not be willing to pay the increased price for the more efficient vehicles, while House Republicans threaten to dramatically reduce the requirements.

This bashing comes as no surprise considering this program will likely be lauded as one of the greatest accomplishments, both economically and environmentally, for the Obama administration in his first term as president, which is not exactly good news for the Republican sect of which an overwhelming majority remains in denial about the increasingly worrying effects of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.

However, I cannot say I disagree with Romney in calling the plan extreme, though I am looking at the term through a much rosier lens. Extreme situations often call for extreme solutions and Obama is not afraid to take them.

NPR reported “that more than 20,000 high temperature records have been broken this year,” and in particular, any Wisconsin natives sweating it out on their way to class over the past couple of days cannot deny these September temperatures are much higher than memory serves to recall. It is becoming harder and harder to push the dire situation of our environment on the back burner—this pot is boiling.

The new CAFE standards not only will save Americans around $3,000 over the lifespan of a car in gas money, if the plan can be upheld they will also cut ozone-damaging greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025.

Environmental impact notwithstanding, the plan also has a couple other merits to offer Americans.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama in a White House press release.

The United States produces two percent of the world’s supply of oil to the 20 percent it consumes, according to New York Times writer and University of Chicago professor Richard H. Thaler. Relevant to this, the president’s fuel-efficiency regulations will “reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels,” the White House said in the aforementioned press release.

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Diminishing the necessity for foreign oil will not only make the U.S. a more autonomous country when it comes to energy consumption and production, it would also likely reduce demand for these staggering imports, which would ultimately drive the market price of oil down, therefore making gas simultaneously cheaper and less of a staple in American consumption.

Because, let us be reasonable here, Obama is not the only one to blame (or really even one to blame at all) for gas prices fixing to knock the bell off the high striker—oil is a slave to the market and anyone who has taken Econ 101 can tell you increased demand for a product almost always drives prices up.

There have also been talks about increased tax breaks for those investing in fuel-efficient cars and trucks, offering yet another incentive to ease the burden of vehicle prices increasing by about $1,000 by 2016 (essentially the only qualm Romney and his staff could come up with against the plan).

Regardless of tax breaks, the increased price of the vehicles is a modicum of money in the bank compared to the collective $1.7 trillion the government predicts Americans will save when fueling up.

It is time for us to start thinking long term when it comes to fixing the economy, the environment and our country as a whole. President Obama and car manufacturers who have helped reach this agreement know Americans are ready to invest in these somewhat drastic measures, so let us now show our support for these fuel-efficient strides towards a cleaner and more economically independent tomorrow.

Jaime is a senior majoring in journalism. Please send all feedback to

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