Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

John Arensmeyer Headshot

New Fuel Efficiency Standards Power Small Business Success

Posted: Updated:

A poll released Friday indicates the vast majority of small business owners will be pleased with the deal President Obama struck with automakers that raises fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 mpg for cars and light trucks. Obama's plan, which he announced Friday, mirrors the desires of small business owners, who believe high fuel efficiency standards are essential to sparking job growth and stimulating the economy.

Polling by Small Business Majority found 87 percent of small business owners believe it is important to increase fuel efficiency standards now. Once standards are raised, the money saved on fuel will be injected into the economy as cash becomes available to business owners who want to hire new employees but are unable to because of suffocating energy costs.

Consumers' wallets will also be heavier--people are more likely to patronize businesses, small and large, when they have more money. With the cash they'll save on the cost of fuel, consumers become key participants in economic growth, alongside small business owners.

Small Business Majority's polling also found that small business owners support standards even stricter than those agreed upon by Obama and automakers: 80 percent of small business owners support raising fuel efficiency standards to 60 mpg. Even in Michigan, home of the Motor City, 72 percent of small business owners support this strong standard. Ann Arbor's Jonathan Tobias, owner of Michigan Green Cabs, touches on the projected effects of strengthened fuel efficiency standards when he says, "it can do nothing but tremendously increase jobs and increase quality of life." Since 2008, Jonathan's fleet of hybrid Prius cabs has grown from 2 to 21. Jonathan, who lives less than an hour away from Detroit, is committed to using environmentally friendly vehicles but, understandably, is conflicted about his choice to buy Toyota. "It's heartbreaking for me that there's not an American alternative," he laments. "I have to buy cars from Japan and it doesn't settle right with me" because buying foreign cars means taking business--and jobs--away from the U.S. economy.

Jonathan, like any business owner who understands the deep-rooted correlation between our country's jobs and its economic circumstance, speaks for many small business owners when he voices support for higher fuel efficiency standards. He has high hopes for the role small businesses will play in our economic future, believing stronger fuel efficiency standards will not only lower fuel costs by reducing dependency on foreign oil but also significantly impact "American families with regards to disposable income." Today's astronomical gas prices prompt Jonathan to pose the million-dollar question: What's a working American family to do when they have to choose "between paying for daycare or paying for fuel?" With the new regulations expected to reduce fuel consumption up to 40 percent by 2025, the public will be better-equipped financially to foster economic growth by patronizing businesses everywhere, daycares included.

Obama's plan would require U.S. cars and light trucks to average 54.5 mpg by 2025, equivalent to 163 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. Compared to current vehicles, this amounts to a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2010, U.S. vehicles averaged 28.3 mpg and 314 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. It's estimated that by 2025, with the new standards American families will save $8,200 in at-the-pump costs over the lifetime of a new vehicle, giving them greater spending power to help boost the economy.

Small business owners across the political spectrum say that in order to survive and remain competitive, they not only need more customers but automobiles that get better gas mileage and cost less to operate. Our survey of small business owners included 34 percent of respondents identifying as Republicans, 25 percent as Democrats and 41 percent as independents. With 80 percent of small business owners like Jonathan Tobias agreeing that there's a need for stronger fuel efficiency standards, it's clear what kinds of policies they believe will help rebuild the economy.