White House Unveils Landmark Fuel Economy and Emissions Standards

Author photo Written by Nick Chambers, Editor
Published on September 15th, 2009

Today the Obama Administration released a 1,200 page document of proposed regulation changes that will drastically alter the fuel economy and emissions standards that auto manufacturers are required to meet in the US. Although it could be an incredibly contentious topic, it seems that so far the proposal has gained wide support from all sides of the spectrum including environmental organizations and industry lobby groups.

The changes — which would alter both the Department of Transportation’s and the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules — call for what amounts to about a 5% increase in fuel economy standards per year from 2011 to 2016 starting with 27.3 mpg in 2011 and ending with 35.5 mpg in 2016.

In addition to the new economy standards, the White House has outlined the first ever greenhouse gas emissions limits for new cars sold in the US. Starting with model year 2016, each manufacturer’s new car fleet would have to meet an average limit of 250 grams of carbon emitted per mile driven.

The administration said that altogether the new rules would save the average car buyer $3,000 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle, reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by about 950 million metric tons tons, and reduce the US’ dependence on foreign oil by about 1.8 billion barrels.

Environmental organizations quickly got in on dousing praise on the proposal. The Natural Resources Defense Council called the new rules “unprecedented” and the Sierra Club’s Ann Mesnikoff said “Taking fuel economy out of the 1970s and into the 21st century is a big step.”

Not to be outdone, auto manufacturers and their lobbying groups also sounded positive about the proposal. Dave McCurdy, CEO of the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, said that the “rules are essential to providing manufacturers with the certainty and lead time necessary to plan for the future and cost effectively add new technology.” He added, “We look forward to working constructively with the Obama administration to provide comments and begin meeting our shared goals of increasing fuel economy, enhancing energy security, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through this single national program.”

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal and, by law, the White House will have to publish final rules by March 30, 2010.

Image Credit: Wolfgang Staudt’s Flickr Photostream. Used under a Creative Commons License.

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