Last Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially released a proposal to hike fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The plan should be embraced by all parties and lawmakers should work toward making the United States a leader in energy efficiency.

Wednesday’s announcement came after the Obama administration and automakers agreed in principle to the plan last July. This is well over a 50-percent increase since the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandated that the national mileage reach 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

The average fuel economy standard in the U.S. has been stuck at 27.5 miles per gallon since the mid-1980s. The European Union and countries like Japan have average rates of at least 45 mpg, starkly contrasting the Corporate Average Fuel Economy in the U.S. Though President Barack Obama has yet to fulfill promises to cut down on foreign energy dependence and oil consumption, the administration has begun making strides toward raising the fuel-efficiency standard.

It’s crucial that Congress takes steps to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Making automobiles more fuel efficient would greatly impact these efforts. Moreover, the proposal is in line with additional efforts made by the U.S. EPA to cut down on motor vehicle emissions, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Gas exhaust has undesirable effects on the environment and public health. Factors such as toxic hydrocarbons and solid particulates contribute to air pollution — escalating a variety of diseases including some cancers.

Many foreign car companies including Daimler AG, BMW AG, Jaguar Land Rover and Porsche AG choose to violate CAFE requirements and pay millions of dollars in fines as a result. Volkswagen AG has been especially vocal against raising fuel-efficiency standards, while Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Group and General Motors have come out in support of the proposal, saying 54.5 mpg is an achievable goal.

Taxes on gas-guzzling vehicles are proving ineffective at gaining cooperation from auto-manufacturers. Companies are happy to pay the fines for noncompliance because the fees are less costly than investing in new technologies. In order to enforce the new national standard, the Obama administration should follow the lead of other European and Asian countries. Different measures need to be implemented to promote fuel-efficiency — fiscal incentives could be provided for companies that comply, and tax relief could be awarded according to efficiency and lower emission rates.

The U.S. is the world’s largest market for passenger vehicles. Therefore, corporations have a responsibility to do the best they can for the environment, economy and health of their consumers. It’s in the country’s best interest to cut down on energy consumption — if the proposed rates do take effect by the projected date, the country will use 2.2 million fewer barrels of oil each day. CAFE standards need to respond to pressures of the present. In a global economy, it’s of the utmost importance that U.S. automakers can compete with their foreign counterparts in a market that is becoming increasingly environmentally conscious.

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