Environment Michigan
Battle Creek Enquirer
Mark Schauer and Jane Wiedenbeck

Recently proposed clean car standards present huge wins across the board for Michigan: for our environment, our economy and our national security. And for those who think clean cars are here before their time, a recent national Consumer Reports poll found that 77 percent of likely voters think that car manufacturers should produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. Michiganders are clearly ready for cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars that create less pollution and save them money at the pump.

Last November, the administration proposed new clean car standards that would require automakers to meet a standard equivalent to 54.5 miles-per-gallon by 2025. By 2030, the implementation of the standard would see national annual gasoline use reduced by as much as 23 billion gallons - the amount of oil we currently import from Saudi Arabia and Iraq alone. The standards will also greatly reduce carbon pollution nationally; they are estimated to decrease carbon emissions by 280 million metric tons - equivalent to shutting down over 70 coal-fired power plants for one year.

Increasing the fuel efficiency of new vehicles will also save Michigan consumers money at the pump. Consumers could net thousand of additional dollars in savings over the life of a new car, even after accounting for the cost of the fuel-saving technology. American consumers will save nearly $45 million. The net savings across Michigan will total $976 million dollars - an average savings of $240 per household.

The standards are a boon for Michigan's consumers, and for the economy. Michigan is ready to once again be a leader and innovator in the auto industry, and we have the technology to make our cars and light trucks much cleaner and more fuel-efficient. Strong standards will put into place innovations such as high-strength lightweight materials and electric vehicle technology, and will encourage further innovations to improve efficiency. From a new electric vehicle battery plant in Holland, to fuel-efficiency innovations from the Big Three in Detroit, the continued expansion of the clean car industry will bring tens of thousands of jobs back to Michigan.

Improving our vehicle fleet isn't just about producing smaller cars and electric vehicles, either. It is about making sure that every American has the chance to buy the most fuel efficient car or truck to suit his or her needs. Automakers are even able to increase fuel efficiency of light trucks without having to compromise on towing and hauling power. In fact, the new Ford F-Series with Ecoboost has increased fuel economy and the best hauling and towing power of any Ford F-Series truck. In the 2012 Detroit auto show, American car companies are highlighting fuel-efficient cars of all kinds.

The standards have the support of the United Auto Workers, 13 major automakers, numerous labor unions and consumer and environmental groups. We must ensure, however, that the standards are kept free of loopholes that could undermine their environmental and economic benefits. The administration is currently accepting public comments from consumers until February 13; participation by Michigan residents is the best way to voice our support. We urge consumers from the Battle Creek area to submit a public comment by sending an email to a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov (include "Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0799" in the subject line).

We must capitalize on clean car technology by making our car fleets as efficient and as clean as possible. The public comment period is a critical opportunity to show the Obama administration that Michiganders support clean cars standards that will reap huge environmental and economic savings; we must now voice our support for a new era of innovation in Michigan.

Mark Schauer is a former U.S. House representative from the 7th District of Michigan. He currently is the national co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance Jobs 21! Campaign. Jane Wiedenbeck is a field organizer with Environment Michigan.