Column: Fuel economy regulations protect us

Angela Youngblood

Like millions of other Michigan families, my family lives much of life on the road. We are two parents and four kids riding around in two minivans, covering tens of thousands of miles every year.

Between work, school, kids’ sports, vacations, visiting relatives and epic summer road trips, we crisscross Michigan and half of the rest of the country. And we take pride in driving vehicles made in America.

So when I hear some automakers are trying to roll back the miles-per-gallon standards that save my family money and keep the air cleaner for my kids, I get downright frustrated — almost as frustrated as my kids get on road trips, when they start in with, “Are we there yet?”

In fact, I could ask the Big Three the same thing, with a twist: when it comes to ensuring that our strong national fuel economy standards will stay get even stronger, why aren’t we there yet?

Every January in Detroit, the North American International Auto Show shows off what our state and our American automakers can do. But this year, it’s a little harder for me to feel the same pride as I’ve felt in years past, because I know some of our automakers are actually trying to roll back these money saving standards.

If there’s one thing that’s a no-brainer for a mom trying to raise four kids on a couple of educators’ salaries, it’s saving money on gas. We can’t get to school or work via public transit in Rochester, where we live.

Our kids are on travel teams, and we have far-flung relatives we like to visit, but plane tickets are too expensive to consider. For us, driving is the only transportation option. So going farther on every gallon of gas is important.

America’s miles-per-gallon rules work because they are flexible: they give different targets for different-size vehicles. So it’s not like minivans, which have plenty of room to haul all the kids and their stuff, have to be as fuel-efficient as a compact car. But they do have to meet fuel-economy targets that are reasonable, and are required to gradually get more miles per gallon each year as technology improves.

Most foreign automakers around the world understand that people don’t want to spend more than they have to on gas. Honda is showing off a new gas-electric hybrid five-passenger car. Hyundai is previewing an SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. And, Volvo is committed to phasing out combustion engines entirely.

This is the kind of leadership what we want from our automakers. As one of more than 1,000,000 American parents who have joined Moms Clean Air Force, I know that cutting back on gasoline use makes for cleaner air and healthier kids.

And like any mother raising kids on a budget, I know that spending less at the pump frees up money for other things my family needs, from food to clothing to school supplies.

Some of my favorite family memories revolve around summer road trips. We visit family in Kentucky, go to the beach in Georgia, and have adventures in state after state along the way.

It always strikes me how getting out and meeting people — rather than staying at home and watching the news — restores my faith in my fellow Americans. We’ve met so many good people along the way.

As a motoring Michigan mom, I call on our home state automakers to help my family.

Don’t waste time and effort trying to roll back fuel economy standards that help every family’s budget. Instead, concentrate on making more fuel-efficient cars, trucks and SUVs that save us money with every mile. Go ahead — help America’s families take the high road, and make us proud.

Angela Youngblood is a member of Moms Clean Air Force and lives with her family in Rochester.