The Best Remedy for the Price of Gas

This post was co-authored by James Gerstenzang, editorial director of the Safe Climate Campaign.

There is no magic wand that will bring down the price of gasoline, which has once again crossed the $4 mark in California. But there is a long-term solution that will inoculate us from higher costs in the future.

The Obama administration can't do much to lower the price of a gallon of gas, but it is on the cusp of a crucial decision that could help consumers come out ahead because they would need less gas.

Officials are quietly working on just how steeply to require the auto industry to cut emissions and increase mileage in the next generation of cars, SUVs and pickups. Their decision, coming as early as May, could require dramatically cleaner vehicles that would cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 6% a year and average 62 miles per gallon. The new rules would be phased in from 2017 to 2025.

Obviously, using less gas is good for the environment. It means less carbon dioxide pollution and smog. It also boosts our energy security -- a big deal, given the uncertainty of oil supplies from troubled regions and often unsavory players -- and saves us money at the pump. That beats sending our dollars overseas.

The auto industry argues that it is already making clean cars and that having to meet steeper emissions cuts would raise prices. It is lobbying to hold the cut to 3%.

How much is at stake? If we do what the automakers want, U.S. consumers would use 217 million more barrels of oil in 2025 than at 6% -- and send $16 billion more per year to foreign oil producers.

To be sure, there are...

This commentary first appeared in the Los Angeles Times.