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Alum Helps Clean the Air We Breathe

Former EPA Director Says Cleaner, Smarter Cars Needed

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Margo T. Oge ‘72, ’75 signs copies of her new book during a recent campus visit.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Imagine an intelligent car made of advanced materials and uses an eco-friendly, super-efficient power train that produces zero emissions and delivers 100-plus miles per gallon. That’s the future of motor vehicles envisioned by Margo T. Oge '72, ’75, former director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C.

Oge, who retired from the EPA after 32 years of distinguished service, visited the campus recently to talk to students and faculty as part of Engineering Dean Joseph Hartman’s colloquium series. Oge is the author of the book, “Driving the Future: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars,” which was published this year by Arcade Publishing in New York.

In her book, Oge gives an insider account of the politics behind the car industry and climate change, and how she helped make possible the Obama Administration’s landmark 2012 deal with auto makers to double the efficiency of vehicles sold in the U.S. market to 54.5 mpg and cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025, thereby saving consumers nearly $2 trillion at the pump. She states that improvements in air quality have resulted in the “prevention of 40,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of respiratory illness annually,” without sacrificing jobs and the country’s economic growth.

Oge envisions future automobiles that are smarter and safer and can network with other cars.  Driverless and self-parking cars, she believes, will also become commonplace.

During her talk, Oge told the audience that when she first arrived in America from Athens, Greece in 1968, she didn’t speak a word of English. In fact, when she began her study at UMass Lowell, she was placed on academic probation due to her poor performance.

“But I worked hard at it,” Oge told the students. “I said to myself: if things seem impossible, make them possible. Have resilience.” She then went on to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees in plastics engineering from UMass Lowell in 1972 and 1975, respectively.

Oge is currently vice chairman of the board of DeltaWing Technologies and a board member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and sits on a Department of Energy advisory committee on hydrogen and fuel cells. She has also received Presidential Awards from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and numerous environmental and industry awards.