Three years ago, BMW introduced (so far, in Europe only) a terrific diesel-fueled 3-series car that gets 65 miles a gallon and smokes the autobahn. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have also been showcasing advanced fuel-cell prototypes in Europe, along with their diesel and hybrid lines. Confirming the high-efficiency future, Volkswagen's vice president for U.S. sales, Frank Trivieri, said Tuesday the company intends to ratchet up its Chattanooga-made clean-diesel Passats, which get over 40 mpg, from 25 percent of their currently soaring sales to over one-third of sales.
Japanese car-makers' focus on battery-powered hybrids and their red-hot competitors in South Korea are chasing similarly potent high-mileage autos. So suffice it to say that American manufacturers, now up from the grave, have finally fully embraced the challenge of high-mileage cars as an elemental requirement to stay in the automobile race for survival.
By these rapidly advancing standards, the Obama administration's newly announced fleet-average fuel-efficiency goal for American auto-makers of 54.5 mpg by 2025 seems tame. Though it means nearly doubling the current average, nobody but Republicans seem to be in opposition.
Quietly gone are the days that regulators, Congress and environmentalists battled car makers over new mileage standards. Car companies know their competitive future in tomorrow's resource-deficient global economy, and our environmentally threatened world, hinges on environmental protection and resource conservation as well as fuel efficiency. They have virtually joined hands with EPA officials and state regulators in efforts to advance a healthier, greener climate by building high-efficiency cars.
Americans will benefit in all ways. Even if super-efficient cars cost consumers a bit more, they are expected to save more than $8,000 over the life of higher-mileage cars. In addition to reduced carbon and particulate emissions, the nation will also enjoy a 10 percent savings in current oil consumption of 19 million barrels a day. That, in turn, will reduce price and supply pressures on imported oil, which now constitutes roughly half of annual U.S. consumption.
Regrettably, Mitt Romney has labeled the new gas mileage standards as extreme, and joined House Republicans in a pledge to roll back the new standards. Their opposition is not only a grossly myopic mistake. It also confirms how they remain deeply in denial about the irreversible economic and environmental trends that challenge us to build a resilient future.