From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published April 1, 2010 02:05 PM

New Aggressive National Fuel Economy Standards Set for Passenger Cars and Light Trucks

No fooling, the DOT and EPA, in response to one of the Obama Administration's top priorities, have jointly established aggressive new federal rules that will significantly increase the fuel economy of all passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States. They have also established new federal rules that would for the first time ever, set national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for these vehicles.


The new rules are forecast to save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car $3,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle. EPA estimates that nationally, it has the potential to conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of GHG emissions over the lives of the vehicles.

The new rules also simplify the old system because they establish one clear standard for all automakers, instead of the three separate standards used prior: DOT, EPA, and a state standard. Fuel economy standards are increased under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program which is a part of the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards are established under the Clean Air Act. Today’s final rules will apply to vehicles produced from 2012 through 2016.

"This is a significant step towards cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand-in-hand," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "…By working together with industry and capitalizing on our capacity for innovation, we've developed a clean cars program that is a win for automakers and drivers, a win for innovators and entrepreneurs, and a win for our planet."

Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood said "These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies. We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air."

The new standards take effect for 2012 model year vehicles, requiring automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy each year up to 34.1 mpg by 2016, and reduce fleet-wide GHG emissions by about 5% each year.

The EPA standards require that by 2016, automakers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission of 250 grams of CO2 per mile. If all reductions came from fuel economy improvements, it would be equivalent to 35.5 mpg. Automakers can use air-conditioning improvements to partially meet the new standard. The EPA estimates a reduction in CO2 emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles, or the equivalent of taking 50 million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.

This joint regulation achieves a top goal set by the Obama Administration to develop a National Program to establish federal standards that also meet the standards of the states including California. The effort was first announce by the President last May with the broad support of automakers, the United Auto Workers, States, and environmental advocates.

The efficiencies demanded by the new rules can be largely met by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies such as more efficient engines, tires, transmissions, aerodynamics, air conditioning, and materials. In addition, smaller or lighter vehicles are likely. However, the EPA and NHTSA expect automakers to choose to pursue more advanced technologies such as hybrid, plug-in electric hybrid, and electric vehicles, as well as clean diesel engines.

Canada, along with the United States, is also announcing GHG emissions regulations today for light duty vehicles. Environment Canada has worked closely with the US EPA and NHTSA to ensure a common North American approach.

In the United States, passenger vehicles and light trucks account for almost 60% of all US transportation-related GHG emissions. The announcement of the new federal regulations does not come as a complete surprise, and it is encouraging to see. It marks a very positive step in the effort to make the United States more energy-independent, decrease fuel costs, clean the air, and address climate change.

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