Would you prefer the good news first, or the bad? Your answer is probably a psychological profile unto itself: There are those who prefer to crescendo up into The Happy Place, or those who prefer to start high, then let the lows take their best shot amidst the afterglow.
With Aunt Ruth, it’s a mood thing. Writing an environmental column is mostly about bad news, and not just recent bad news: cumulative bad news, the piling of bad news on top of last year’s bad news on top of the past 50 years of bad news. Little wonder Ruth gets invited to so few parties.
The good news is that the Obama administration kicked some butt last month. Maybe it was seeing all those Keystone XL protesters getting arrested on the president’s front lawn? Maybe it was the mere thought of an election run against Newt Gingrich? Anyway, in a deal crafted between the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation and most major automakers, the total fleet average for miles-per-gallon of gasoline must nearly double by 2025, from 27.5 mpg to 54.5.
That’s some huge doings. Writing in The New York Times, Thomas Friedman called it “a legacy deal” for President Barack Obama, urged along in part because California was “going to impose their own improved auto emissions standards, if the federal government didn’t.” The Environmental Defense Fund’s Fred Krupp noted: “By 2025 we’ll have cars that … save their owners more than $8,000 in fuel costs, save our country more than [two] million barrels of oil a day, and drastically reduce the carbon dioxide pollution in our air.”
The downside? Trucks are held to a different standard, and should the industry mass produce more trucks than currently projected, the 54.5 mpg standard can be avoided via loophole. And, of course, the usual suspects—lead by California’s own eco-archenemy Darrell Issa—are whining about the increased auto costs.
Why is this agreement between automakers and government the stuff of legacy? Americans are starting to get it—the Yale Project on Climate Change noted recently that more than 60 percent of Americans correlate heat waves, Oklahoma’s drought and record snowfalls with climate change—and already there are cars on the road that can get 50-plus mpg. Why is this so hard? Therein lies the bad news. More next week.