Last April, the three main fuel economy regulatory players – the EPA, the DOT and the State of California – announced new CAFE targets for the 2012 through 2016 model years: 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016. If there's one thing U.S. automakers liked about this, it was that we had a "national standard" for fuel economy regulations. The U.S. has been shifting towards a cohesive, nationwide set of rules since 2008 and it looks like we had avoived the dreaded "patchwork" regulations that OEMs were so troubled by.

This week, the regulatory partners announced "a single timeframe for proposing fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for model year 2017-2025 cars and light-duty trucks." Whatever MPG number they agree to, we'll hear about it from a singular voice by September 1 instead of an announcement from California in the spring and then a federal one in the fall, as had been expected.

Because of the Clean Air Act, California still had the authority to define its own motor vehicle emissions standards, but the feds have been working to make their own regulations strict enough to keep California happy while providing "certainty" for automakers that are building next-gen clean cars. Last fall, California "accepted compliance with these federal GHG standards," and – for now – everyone is still playing together nicely.

[Source: EPA/DOT/CARB, USAToday | Image: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images]
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EPA, DOT and California Align Timeframe for Proposing Standards for Next Generation of Clean Cars

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California today announced a single timeframe for proposing fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for model year 2017-2025 cars and light-duty trucks. Proposing the new standards on the same timeframe - by September 1, 2011
- signals continued collaboration that could lead to an extension of the current National Clean Car Program, providing automakers certainty as they work to build the next generation of clean, fuel efficient cars. Improving fuel efficiency will save consumers money at the pump, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and cut emissions of harmful pollutants.

"The single timeframe is another great example of the cooperation that has led us to strong and achievable standards for clean cars in America," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "I'm proud to be working with my federal and state partners on this next step in the process to make the U.S. the world leader in fuel efficient clean cars."

"Today's announcement is a big step forward, but it is only the beginning. By working together with EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop standards for the next generation of clean cars, we can set a standard that works for automakers across the country," said DOT Secretary LaHood. "Our continued collaboration is win-win-win for the environment, businesses and the American consumer."

"President Obama's invitation last year to join with the federal agencies to develop new emission and fuel economy standards has resulted in a model of government cooperation to address the important issues of global climate change and urban pollution," said Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

In April 2010, DOT and EPA established greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for model year 2012-2016 light-duty cars and trucks. In the fall of 2010, California accepted compliance with these federal GHG standards as meeting similar state standards as adopted in 2004, resulting in the first coordinated national program. The standards require these vehicles to meet an estimated combined average emissions level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile in model year 2016, which is equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon.

In May 2010, President Obama announced that EPA, DOT and California would begin working together to assess the performance and costs of a variety of technologies that could be available in model years 2017-2025 as the first step in possibly extending the current national emission and fuel economy standards. The three agencies completed an interim technology assessment and have since funded additional research critical to future rulemaking.

With today's announcement, CARB is committing to continue its collaboration with DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA in an effort to establish standards that will provide manufacturers with the regulatory certainty needed to invest today in the kind of new technologies that will provide consumers a full range of efficient clean vehicle choices.

Prior to today's announcement, CARB announced its intention to propose greenhouse gas emission standards for model years 2017 to 2025 in March of this year, while EPA and NHTSA were working on an end of September timeline for proposal. Today's announcement ensures that both proposals will come out simultaneously after a thorough, joint review of all data available when the proposals are issued.

Auto manufacturers are responding to these goals through the increased domestic production and use of existing, advanced, and emerging technologies to strengthen the auto industry and enhance job creation in the United States.