With election-year headlines trumpeting deep political divisions nationwide and partisan paralysis in Washington, the last thing you might expect to see is a major change in federal energy policy.
Yet, that is exactly what is about to happen-with the support of automakers and unions, national security leaders and consumer groups, and a host of other backers on the right and left of America's political chasm. Any day now, the U.S. will finalize a federal fuel-economy standard of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by the year 2025, one that was largely agreed upon earlier this year.
Why has this effort attracted broad support where so many other worthy efforts have fallen prey to partisan bickering? I think the number one reason is that the vast majority of Americans, no matter their political leanings, understand that our nation's dependence on oil is a serious problem that must be addressed now.
It is precisely for this reason that we must continue to forge ahead with the 54.5-mpg rule. We must guard against partisan grandstanding and the "gotcha" moments that too often pollute our nation's energy debates.
Volatile oil prices threaten our economy and national security. Gasoline prices are on the rise again, in part because new intelligence shows Iran may disrupt international oil supplies by attacking oil platforms and tankers. I think we can all agree that we do not want the economic future of the United States of America to depend on the whims of Iran's Supreme Leader or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
When oil prices go up, so does the price of food and other consumer goods, as well as operating expenses for businesses and governments. And every day, we send about a billion dollars to other nations to buy oil.
We must reduce oil's stranglehold on our economy, and the new 54.5-mpg standard is a good start. It will save our nation 2.2 million barrels of oil every day by 2025-an amount equal to about half the oil we import from OPEC every day.
Last year, the CNA Military Advisory Board (MAB), an elite group of retired top-ranking generals and admirals, issued an urgent call for a 30 percent reduction in our nation's use of petroleum. MAB members said that cutting our oil dependence would significantly improve our national security and protect our ability to move people and goods freely across the country. The 54.5-mpg standard is an important step in this direction. It will promote greater energy efficiency and a more diverse mix of transportation fuels-both goals that the MAB considers paramount.
The standards also will help to jumpstart the American auto industry's competitiveness on the world market. This might be part of the reason the auto companies themselves support 54.5 mpg. It is a savvy, consumer-driven move on the auto industry's part, as poll after poll finds consumers want more miles per gallon. For example, a recent Consumer Reports survey found that the leading consideration for consumers when shopping for their next car is fuel economy-and that getting better gas mileage ranks as even more important than quality, safety, value and performance.
Recently, I joined 14 other Republican former office holders in signing a letter to President Obama, asking his administration to continue to drive the new fuel economy and emissions standard forward. I am pleased that the 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard is expected to be adopted in short order.
Cutting our oil dependence, boosting our economy, and strengthening our national security are so important to the nation that these goals rise above the level of everyday political sniping. That is why Americans support 54.5 mpg by 2025: no matter our political stripes, we all want what is best for our country.
Sherwood "Sherry" Boehlert is a Republican and former Congressman, representing Central New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 terms.
For an alternate view on America's energy policy, read Scott Burgess' column, "Why America Needs A $1 Per Gallon Gas Tax."