When President Obama took office in January, gas-mileage standards for cars hadn't been tightened in the U.S. since 1990. The corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards in place were toothless compared with those in countries in Europe and Asia; that's partly why the U.S. auto industry was able to gouge itself with gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. Major players like General Motors had long resisted any effort to raise the fuel standards, but this year, decimated by the recession and their own poor business decisions, they could offer little resistance when the White House pushed to raise CAFE standards to 35.5 m.p.g. by 2016. That's still modest by international standards, but the move will save millions of barrels of oil and cut carbon emissions.