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New Fuel Economy Rules to Save Maine Drivers $600 Million

1930s gas pumps  Photo Credit: Library of Congress
1930s gas pumps Photo Credit: Library of Congress
August 29, 2012

AUGUSTA, Maine - New regulations finalized by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency will set a fuel-efficiency standard for cars and light trucks by model year 2025.

They'll have to get just over 54 miles per gallon of gasoline, almost double what they get today.

The administration predicts the move will lower U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, spur job growth in the auto industry and save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump.

Lisa Pohlman, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine spells out the impact here, as calculated by her group and the Union of Concerned Scientists:

"Even after the cost of putting together what you need technologically to make these new cars, there's going to be a net savings of around $600 million."

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to overturn the fuel-efficiency rules if elected, saying they "hurt domestic automakers and provided a benefit to some of the foreign automakers." The Obama administration says its new measures have the backing of the U.S. auto industry and the United Auto Workers.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the auto industry has been and will be creating jobs in the effort to reach the 2025 standards.

"I think we know that the American people want more fuel-efficient cars. That's why they're wildly popular right now. And the car manufacturers are responding to that by increasing capacity."

Pohlman says it would be a mistake for a new administration to come in next January and overturn regulations to which the auto industry has agreed.

"They recognize the U.S. jobs that are associated with this, and so I think the labor unions are behind it and the automakers in general are behind it. I would hate to see us turn around in the other direction."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was asked if other industries - such as coal, oil and gas - might take a cue from Detroit's cooperation. She praised the carmakers.

"They're not trying to make regulations go away. They know that the government can help consumers by saving money at the pump. They want to make sure that cars are on a level playing field. What they've asked for all along is one nationwide standard."

The council estimates the new standards will reduce climate-changing carbon pollution in Maine by 2.4 million metric tons, a 14 percent reduction.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME