Here's a quiz. Where does the U.S. rank for vehicle emission and mileage standards: A) The most advanced B) Above average C) The most lenient?

The shocking answer is C. We could be reducing our dependence on foreign oil by billions of barrels, global warming emissions by millions of tons, and we could be saving American families billions of dollars in fuel costs just by increasing national standards to a level equivalent with China, Europe and Japan. The auto industry isn't enthusiastic about raising the bar, but neither they nor their lobbyists dispute the industry's ability to attain at least a 56 MPG standard by 2025. This compares with Europe's projected results of 60 MPG five years sooner. We can and must do better.

Americans concerned about the national security implications of our addiction to foreign oil, or about the global effects of vehicle emissions on our children and grandchildren, need to ask their government and the auto industry (the one they bailed out 24 months ago): How much oil can we save and how much pollution can we avoid?

The president, the EPA and the Highway Safety Administration should answer that question with competitive national standards (of at least 56 MPG by 2025) and enforcement of reduced speed limits that save lives, energy and the environment. These modest but critically important regulatory actions will be criticized by the auto industry and some politicians, but the cost of not acting and the enormous potential benefits of doing so demand implementation of higher standards.

Roger C. Kostmayer, Baltimore