No Time to Be Timid

06/02/2011 03:59 pm ET | Updated Aug 02, 2011

Ending America's dependence on oil is one of our nation's greatest challenges -- for our economy, our environment, and our national security. We consume a breathtaking 19 million barrels a day, and 70 percent of it is used for transportation.

Adding urgency, the latest report from the International Energy Agency says that global CO2 emissions last year were the highest they've ever been -- and much worse than expected. If we don't want to see a catastrophic disruption of global climate, we need to start acting with urgency right now.

This is no time to be timid. Of the many options the U.S. has for taking action, enacting strong fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas emission standards is one of the simplest and most effective. And it will benefit Americans immediately.

Most obviously, a strong fuel-economy standard saves people money because they don't have to buy as much gas. By 2030, a strong standard (at least 60 mpg by 2025) will have saved Americans $370 billion at the pump more than the weakest standard that the Obama administration is considering (and that's at $3.50/gallon -- does anyone really believe we'll be paying $3.50 per gallon two decades from now?). Already, today's consumers are showing that they value fuel economy. The recovery of American automakers is based on their newfound ability to build great cars and trucks with smart technology that get superior gas mileage.  (There's nothing like a near-death experience to encourage rethinking your priorities.)

The technology to actually exceed 60 mpg already exists today. Setting a strong standard will increase the rate of adoption and drive further innovation. That innovation can happen right here in the U.S., whether it's designing more efficient engines, battery technologies, or creating new infrastructure to support electric vehicles. That means more jobs.

Breaking our dependence on oil is principled and patriotic, and it will bring greater prosperity to American consumers and workers. Not only will consumers save money over the life of a vehicle but also the auto industry will gain jobs. The Department of Energy forecasts that the number of auto industry jobs would increase by 21 percent with a standard of 62 mpg by 2025.

Let's hope American automakers don't get amnesia and attempt to put the brakes on a clean-energy transition. Rather than cling to a destructive dependence on Big Oil, the American auto industry can continue its revival and harness the ingenuity and engineering talent that is one of our nation's greatest strengths. By doing so, they can go from being a big part of the problem to a key part of the solution.

If you'd like to see our cars and trucks get the best mileage possible, then let the Obama administration know.