by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
President Obama is taking a sales pitch for his administration’s requirement that automakers nearly double the gas mileage of their cars out on the road following his acceptance of the Democratic nomination in Charlotte, N.C., this week.
Republicans have criticized the fuel efficiency requirement, arguing that it is too burdensome for car companies and will make cars too costly for consumers.
But in both his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention and his first post-convention appearance in Portsmouth, N.H., Friday, Obama forged ahead with his argument that the gas mileage standards will be both good for drivers at the pump and for the environment.
“After 30 years of inaction, we finally raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, your cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas,” he said to cheers. “That will save you money.”
The comments echoed remarks Obama made in his address to the Democratic convention Thursday, despite seeking to downplay the impression of “big government” in other parts of the speech.
“We have doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries,” Obama said Thursday.
The auto emission standard has been cheered by environmentalists. It is supported by the U.S. auto industry, which has argued that having a national standard is better than having differing state rules. States such as California had previously implemented their own standards for gas mileage.
Despite Republicans hammering the requirement, however, Democrats could be hoping the auto emission standards can give Obama a response to criticism from the GOP about rising gas prices.
The AAA auto club said Friday that the average national price of a gallon of gas was $3.82, compared to a $3.64 average last month.
Republicans have not quite revived their “Drill, Baby, Drill” mantra from the 2008 election. But they have frequently noted increases in gas prices and criticized Obama for rejecting the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which they said would eventually help lower the cost of filling up.
Under the new rules, automakers will have to produce cars that achieve higher miles per gallon beginning in 2017, culminating in a 54.5 miles per gallon requirement in 2025. The Obama administration has said the rules will provide an average fuel cost savings of more than $8,000 over the lifetime of a vehicle when they are fully implemented.
Obama has framed the auto emission standards as not just a response to criticism about gas prices, but also a rejoinder to Republican skepticism about climate change concerns.
“If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone,” Obama said in his speech Thursday night.
“And, yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet — because climate change is not a hoax,” he continued. “More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”
The comments have been widely seen as a response to comments from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech last week that derisively referenced Obama’s remarks about the environment during his first run for the White House in 2008.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney said to laughter during his address in Tampa, Fla. “My promise is to help you and your family.”