Last week, Minnesota and New Mexico both announced they were adopting California’s fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. Although the reasons given by the governors for amending their standards are environmental in nature, following tougher efficiency standards also provide significant economic and national security benefits.
New Mexico’s proposed changes, which are expected to increase the average fuel economy to 52 mpg, would apply to cars sold in the state beginning in model year 2022. Under the new standards in Minnesota, automakers would be required to offer low-emission vehicles for sale in the state including electric or hybrid cars, among other more fuel-efficient conventional gasoline options.
As both announcements were made during Climate Week in New York, the reasons given by both governors inevitably centered around climate concerns. “If Washington won’t lead on climate, Minnesota will,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, adding, “That is why we are taking bold action to reduce carbon emissions in a way that increases car options, protects public health, creates jobs, and saves Minnesotans money at the pump.”
Similarly, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “It is environmentally and economically counterproductive to stall fuel economy standards as contemplated by the proposed federal rollbacks,” in reference to the Trump administration’s fuel economy proposal that freezes current fuel economy standards at 2020 levels through 2026.
Yet by ensuring we extract more economic value from every barrel of oil we do consume, tighter fuel economy standards also hold unquestionable benefits for American economic and national security. Enacted in the wake of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, fuel economy standards have formed a longstanding defense against oil price volatility and OPEC market manipulation.
As the U.S. transportation system is 92 percent dependent on oil, efficiency regulations enhance our nation’s energy security by ensuring the U.S. transport network gets more mileage from every barrel of oil the United States uses. Under the current fuel economy standards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated 4 billion barrels of oil would be saved over the lifetimes of vehicles sold in the model years 2017-2025 alone.
Reducing our reliance on oil is an economic and national security priority. Our extreme dependence on oil means consumers and businesses have nowhere to turn when oil prices spike, stretching household budgets and ultimately distorting long-term financial and investment decisions. Additionally, the United States’ status as the world’s largest oil consumer—accounting for one-fifth of daily global supply—means the responsibility for protecting the global oil supply falls on the shoulders of the U.S. military, which spends at least $81 billion every year to secure supply lines worldwide.
The September 14 attack on the Abqaiq oil processing facility, the largest of its type in the world, is a stark reminder of the fragility and vulnerability of the global oil supply chain. Airstrikes on this single facility halved Saudi oil production and cut global supply by 5 percent. As the attacks threaten to push existing regional tensions to combustible new highs, the United States has sent more troops to the region to offer greater security in the region, risking U.S. military lives in the process.
American military leaders have stated that U.S. oil dependence is one of the key factors that first drew the United States into the Persian Gulf, and keeps us there today—and although climate concerns provide the rationale for recent decisions to reduce oil use through stricter fuel economy standards, our economic sovereignty will be bolstered and our national security will be enhanced.