The wheels on the car go 'round and 'round, according to a little ditty, and the transformation of the car goes on and on, according to sound transportation policy. Forget the anti-regulation rhetoric of the moment -- the great American love affair with the automobile is about to be sweetened by an initiative from Washington, D.C.
The Obama administration announced last Tuesday the latest fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks. The new rules will be introduced gradually until vehicles are capable of 54.5 miles per gallon by the model year 2025. That extraordinary performance will bring multiple advantages to motorists and the nation.
While buyers of cars and light trucks will pay more for their vehicles, perhaps as much as $1,800, they will recoup their investment at the gas pump. The average fuel savings is estimated to be $8,000 over the life of the vehicle.
"These fuel standards represent the single most important step we're ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," President Barack Obama said in a prepared statement.
The standards will reduce oil consumption by 2 million barrels per day by 2025, which amounts to as much as half the oil the United States imports from OPEC. Reactionary regimes that don't like America but love its addiction to oil will shudder at the news.
That strategic advantage would be reason enough to take this step, but there's still more benefit for Americans. The administration projects that by 2025 the emissions that contribute to global warming will be reduced by 50 percent in new cars and light trucks.
But isn't big government putting its iron fist down on the car manufacturers to have its bureaucratic way? Hardly. Thirteen auto companies that make 90 percent of the vehicles sold in America agreed last year to the standards, which were written after considering the input of many stakeholders, including the United Auto Workers union.
Improved technology was the handmaiden in the effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation to insist on standards that are practical as well as eye-opening. As long as the new generation of vehicles is not made any less safe, America will turn several challenging corners in just a few years.