First reactions to the new CAFE standards announced yesterday are positive, with both the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Auto Alliance praising the new Clean Cars rules. UCS called the new 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016 number "a really big deal" that will allow Americans to "drive vehicles that save them money at the pump, cut the country's oil dependence, and produce a lot less global warming pollution." Alliance president and CEO Dave McCurdy, who has been fighting for years to get a national standard like this one put in place, said, "the federal government has laid out a course of action through 2016, and now we need to work on 2017 and beyond."

California, long the leader in pushing for high MPG standards, is taking deserved credit for the direction the Obama Administration has taken with CAFE. Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, told the Mercury News:
For eight long years, California and the 13 other states that adopted our tough standards led the way. This action by the White House now means consumers in all 50 states can benefit from cleaner, more efficient cars.
Everyone might be happy today that the federal standards have been finalized through 2016, but there are two things to remember. First, in the past, California was able to push for higher MPG numbers than the federal government agreed to and that helped us get to where we are today. Second, the agreement that the states will defer to the feds on mpg policy only lasts until 2016. After that, we could see another splintering. There's no reason to think we will, just that we might.

[Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, Auto Alliance, Mercury News | Image: richardmasoner - C.C. License 2.0]



WASHINGTON (April 1, 2010) – The White House today finalized new clean car rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation, securing the largest boost in fuel economy in decades and, for the first time, using the Clean Air Act to require reductions in the amount of heat-trapping emissions from cars and light trucks.

"To paraphrase the vice president, this is a really big deal," said Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program. "Because of these standards, Americans will drive vehicles that save them money at the pump, cut the country's oil dependence, and produce a lot less global warming pollution."

The joint rule will boost the average fleetwide fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the United States to 34.1 miles per gallon by model year 2016. The standards also set national global warming pollution standards for vehicles at 250 grams per mile, roughly 25 percent less than the emissions produced by today's average new vehicle.

According to a UCS analysis, the new rule will:
• Reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1.2 million barrels per day by 2020, more petroleum than the United States presently imports from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined;

• Cut global warming emissions by 209 million metric tons in 2020, the equivalent of taking nearly 31 million of today's cars and light trucks off the road that year;

• Save drivers $34 billion in 2020 even after they pay the cost of vehicle technology improvements. (This is based on $2.75 per gallon. If gas prices spike to $4 a gallon again, the new standards would save drivers $58 billion in 2020.)

• Create up to 20,000 new jobs in the auto industry and up to 200,000 nationwide by 2020.

Today's announcement demonstrates the important role that states have played in promoting clean vehicle technology. In 2002, California used its unique authority under the Clean Air Act to set the first global warming tailpipe emissions standards for cars and light trucks. Over time, 13 other states chose to adopt the California standards in an effort to reduce tailpipe pollution. Legal challenges to the state standards were struck down twice, by federal courts in Vermont and California, and in 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA affirmed that the Clean Air Act gives authority to EPA and California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This ruling also directed EPA to address any threat climate change poses to human health and welfare. This legal decision formed the foundation for the EPA standards finalized today.

As part of the agreement that led to the new national standards, the states will defer to the new federal standards through 2016, although they preserve the authority to set higher standards in the future.

"The states laid the groundwork for these national standards," said Brendan Bell, a Washington representative in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program. "Because of their leadership, all Americans will enjoy the benefits of cleaner, more efficient vehicles."

For more information on the benefits and structure of the new standards, please see UCS's new factsheet -

Automakers Welcome GHG/ Fuel Economy National Program
Look to 2017 and Beyond

Washington, DC – Automakers today welcomed the final release of coordinated NHTSA and EPA regulations for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, saying the national regulations mark the beginning of a new integrated approach to reducing automobile fuel use and carbon emissions.

"America needs a roadmap to reduced dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gases, and only the federal government can play this role," said Dave McCurdy, President & CEO, Alliance. "Today, the federal government has laid out a course of action through 2016, and now we need to work on 2017 and beyond."

The regulations provide manufacturers with a roadmap for meeting significant mileage increases for model years 2012-2016, as well as the certainty and lead time necessary to cost effectively add new technology. When fully implemented, the regulations will result in a 30 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions and a subsequent 40 percent increase in vehicle fuel economy.

Automakers are already achieving milestones. In 2010, nearly 200 models are on sale that achieve 30 miles per gallon or greater on the highway, almost a 50% increase over last year. As EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a speech at the Washington DC Auto Show in January, "2009 marked the fifth straight year we've seen increases in the average fuel economy for cars and light trucks." This final rule will ensure that this trend continues.

"A year ago, the auto industry faced a regulatory maze resulting from multiple sets of inconsistent fuel economy/greenhouse gas standards," McCurdy said. "NHTSA was promulgating new fuel economy standards required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, while EPA was preparing greenhouse gas standards under the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, California and 13 other states were planning their own state-specific greenhouse gas standards. When our engineers struggle with changing or conflicting laws, it derails efforts to introduce new technologies with long-term research and development timeframes. The national program announced today makes sense for consumers, for government policymakers and for automakers."

The ongoing existence of a national program for motor vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for all future model years should be the shared goal of not only the current Administration and the industry, but also Congress and the States, for the benefit of the environment, the public, and the ability of the industry to create and maintain high quality jobs

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