Introducing fuel efficiency standards should be the next item on the Labor government's climate action agenda, according to a new Australia Institute report which claimed motorists would have saved billions at the bowser had they been ushered in earlier.
The progressive thinktank says the end of the fuel excise cut in September presents the perfect chance to push for the new standards, which would cut transport emissions, ease hip-pocket pressures on motorists and fast-track the switch to electric cars.
Australia is one of a small number of major developed nations without the mandatory standards, which regulate the efficiency of new vehicles sold.
Experts say that position leaves Australia at risk of becoming a "dumping ground" for older, higher polluting cars and provides no incentive for manufacturers to send their electric vehicles to our shores.
Introducing new standards was not part of Labor's election platform in 2022, but Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has said he was open to considering them amid pressure from advocates a number of "teal" independents.
The new Australia Institute report argued mandatory fuel efficiency standards would cut rising transport-related emissions, reduce the need for oil to be imported into Australia and spur the supply of electric cars into the domestic market.
It would also save motorists at the bowser, as more efficient vehicles require less fuel to travel the same distance.
Drivers would have saved a combined $5.9 billion had standards been introduced in 2016, according to the report being released on Monday.
The report argued "disinformation" and "misleading claims" - including from political leaders - had marred previous attempts to usher into Australia what was a common policy elsewhere.
The report's release comes ahead of a major electric vehicle summit later this month in Canberra, which Mr Bowen and Tesla chair Robyn Denholm are set to attend.
The Australia Institute's climate and energy program director, Richie Merzian, urged the Albanese government to seize the "golden opportunity" to introduce new fuel standards as the halving of the fuel excise ends late next month.
"Australians are being left behind simply because, as a nation, we are still accepting gas-guzzling cars with no emissions standards," he said.
"This is costing commuters money at the petrol pump and holding Australia back from reducing our emissions.
"As the fuel excise cut nears an end, policymakers have an opportunity to save motorists money at the petrol pump by introducing an average efficiency standard for new cars in Australia."
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