We’ve come a long way in the last three years, that’s for sure. I was lucky enough to be one of around 100 auto industry policy makers and clean- car advocates invited to attend a meeting titled “Advanced Vehicles: Driving Growth” sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Washington at the end of June.
The meeting, which featured a variety of auto sector experts, advocates and industry representatives along with key administration officials, focused on the successes and future opportunities for growth and environmental improvement in the auto industry.
Think back to just three short years ago, and the attitudes Washington policy- makers expressed toward the American auto industry then. Things have changed. Now people are upbeat about the recovery under way and about the possibilities for success in the future. And best of all? Vehicle fuel efficiency is now at the center of the discussion.
At the meeting, there was discussion about the renaissance of the auto industry, which now leads all manufacturing sectors in job growth. Several speakers emphasized the value of the industry to the nation's economy, especially during the financial crisis when the whole U.S. supply chain was in jeopardy, not just the OEMs.
There was also a lot of enthusiasm about the rollout of energy efficiency innovations in the industry, much of them driven by new fuel economy standards, but also by new technology. While most agreed that near-term gains will be made by improvements to conventional gasoline vehicles, there was also recognition that over the long-term we will continue to see success with alternative fuels like electricity, natural gas and advanced biofuels.
A major source for that optimism? The Obama administration's proposed 2025 standards, which would roughly double the fuel efficiency of new vehicles, will help drive much of the innovation needed over the next decade.
But speakers also made it clear that advanced technologies will continue to need sustained and predictable government support to help get them to market. And the industry will have to be smart competitors, too. The old rule is still true: you can’t avoid change by standing still.
Until next time . . .
Climate & Energy Program Director
The Ecology Center
P.S. For more details about the meeting, see the blog post from my colleague Zoe Lipman at the National Wildlife Federation, or the post by Roger Kerson on the new website Driving Growth. To view the live stream from the meeting, see here and here.