While Denver, Colorado is hosting the first presidential election debate, the hot topic of jobs will likely focus on states like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the center of the domestic auto industry.
The recovery of auto manufacturing jobs is a highlight in the economy.
The cars being made are also more fuel-efficient, which is crucial to addressing other hot topics including cutting our oil dependence and reducing carbon pollution that fuels climate change.
As you watch the debate, keep in mind these facts about more fuel-efficient cars and auto industry jobs:
1. Fuel efficiency standards are driving job growth.
New clean car and fuel economy standards provide long-term certainty and stability that the auto companies and their suppliers need to invest in innovation and manufacturing, spurring more American jobs. Today, over 300 companies across 43 states are building components that make cars and trucks go farther on a gallon of fuel.
After decades of inaction, the U.S. recently adopted standards that reach the equivalent of 54.5 mpg by model year 2025. As the standards ramp up, the auto industry is developing new fuel-saving technologies and adding jobs to build them.
Since the sector’s employment trough in June of 2009, the automotive industry has added over 230,000 jobs nationally. Many of those jobs are in centered in three states as Michigan, Ohio and Indiana make up 36 percent of the national auto manufacturing employment. According to August data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the three states saw an increase of 62,800 jobs, for a gain of 29% since from June 2009. Michigan has seen the largest increase, adding 33,400 jobs. Indiana’s auto manufacturing grew by 19,800 jobs and Ohio’s auto sector added 9,600 jobs.
Here are some recently announced plans to expand auto jobs in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana:
- The Dayton Daily News in Ohio recently reportedthat the production of the new, more fuel-efficient 2013 Honda Accord is driving a “new wave of hiring.” Marysville-area production plants are gearing up to add a second shift. The 2013 Accord also boosts fuel efficiency by as much as 3 mpg over last year’s model.
- In Flat Rock, Michigan, Ford plans to hire 1,200 workers to build the 2013 Ford Fusion. The new Fusion comes in a range of gasoline engine models and a hybrid. Manufacturing at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant will include Fusions equipped with EcoBoost engines that can increase fuel economy by 3 mpg over the 2012 four-cylinder model, saving drivers $250 a year in fuel costs.
- The Indianapolis Star recently reported that in Indiana, auto jobs are growing across multiple manufacturers. At its Greensburg facility, Honda is expanding production of the Civic and planning to add the Civic Hybrid, which is manufactured overseas today. This summer Chrysler announced that it would start making fuel-efficient eight- and nine-speed transmissions in Kokomo.
2. Fuel efficiency standards are good for consumers.
Relief from the pain at the pump comes only from cutting our demand for oil. Conversely, expanding U.S. supplies of oil will do little if anything to reduce the volatile and high prices for oil set on the world market.
The 54.5-mpg standards are a good deal for consumers because new cars in 2025 will consume half as much fuel as the average car on the road today. Those fuel savings at the pump are money in consumers’ pockets ‚Äì an average of over $8,000 over the life of a car even when including the cost of the fuel-saving technologies.
Purchasers of used cars also benefit from the standards because they reap the fuel savings inherent in more efficient cars penetrating the market while paying for only a small fraction of the technology cost.
But consumers don’t have to wait until 2025. Clean car and fuel economy standards started improving with model year 2012 and the new vehicle fleet has hit record fuel efficiency levels. Also, in just the last three years, the number of popular fuel-efficient models has more than doubled, from 28 to 60.
3. Fuel efficiency standards are good for the environment and our energy security.
The increase in fuel efficiency standards from 2012 to 2025 comprise the largest action every taken by the U.S. to slash our oil dependence and reduce carbon pollution.
The 2012-2025 standards could cut imports by one-third in 2030 because the program avoids consumption of 3.1 million barrels of oil per day. Annual carbon pollution in 2030 will be reduced by about 570 million metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to the pollution from 85 million of today’s cars or 140 coal-fired power plants.
As the inaugural presidential debate kicks off, it’s important to understand that the U.S. has recently made some important progress. New fuel efficiency standards are saving consumers’ money, which in turn can create jobs as the money is spent in the U.S. economy instead of for oil from overseas. Job growth is already robust in the large and important auto sector of our economy largely because new standards are providing certainty for auto industry investments in fuel-saving technologies made here in America. That’s a step in the right direction.
Luke Tonachel is the New York-based Vehicles Analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.