Better Gas Mileage = More Jobs?

Gas pumps at an Exxon Mobil gas station are shown Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005 in Stamford, Conn. Crude prices fell Monday, Oct. 31, 2005 as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said it has "more than adequate" spare capacity to cover expected global demand this winter.
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
You'll be hearing a lot about CAFE standards today, and no, they are not the Cole Porter songs Bobby Short used to sing at the Carlyle.

CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, and today the Transportation Department is expected to raise the number over the next half dozen years in hopes of saving billions of gallons of gasoline.

Environmentalists have been screaming for higher CAFE standards for years. Typically Washington is loathe to raise them much because they it will cost jobs.

Let me pose this really crazy idea. What if those CAFE standards had forced auto makers into significant fuel efficiency say, starting say 10 years ago?

Maybe GM wouldn't be on the verge on bankruptcy. Maybe they wouldn't have to be sitting down with their unions trying to figure out how to get their employees to quit before they get laid off.

Maybe better gas mileage and job creation are not mutually exclusive. Maybe they are mutually beneficial. Real CAFE standards could make everyone sing.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.
By Harry Smith