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DOT, EPA set aggressive standards for fuel economy; first greenhouse gas emission levels for cars and light trucks (4/2)

April 2, 2010
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Responding to one of the first major directives of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have jointly established historic new federal rules that set the first-ever national greenhouse gas emissions standards and will significantly increase the fuel economy of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States, according to an EPA press release.

The rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered, according to EPS.

DOT and EPA received more than 130,000 public comments on the September 2009 proposed rules, with overwhelming support for the strong national policy. Manufacturers will be able to build a single, light-duty national fleet that satisfies all federal requirements as well as the standards of California and other states. The collaboration of federal agencies also allows for clearer rules for all automakers, instead of three standards (DOT, EPA, and a state standard).

The final rules, issued by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA establish increasingly stringent fuel economy standards under NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy program and greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act for 2012 through 2016 model-year vehicles.

Starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the rules together require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by approximately five percent every year. NHTSA has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year reaching an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined industry-wide fleet for model year 2016.

Because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet the EPA standards, but not the NHTSA standards, the EPA standards require that by the 2016 model-year, manufacturers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The EPA standard would be equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions came from fuel economy improvements.

“These are the first national standards ever to address climate change,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy. “Over the coming years, America will witness an amazing leap forward in vehicle technologies, delivering fuel efficiency that will save us money and protect the environment.”

The joint final regulation achieves the goal set by President Obama to develop a National Program to establish federal standards that meet the needs of the states and the nation as a whole to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.President Obama first announced the effort last May with a broad coalition of automakers, the United Auto Workers, States, and the environmental community.

NHTSA and EPA expect automobile manufacturers will meet these standards by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies that are already in commercial use, such as more efficient engines, transmissions, tires, aerodynamics, and materials, as well as improvements in air conditioning systems. Although the standards can be met with conventional technologies, EPA and NHTSA also expect that some manufacturers may choose to pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies like hybrid vehicles, clean diesel engines, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles.

In conjunction with the United States, Canada is also announcing Light Duty Vehicle GHG-Emissions regulations today. U.S. EPA and NHTSA have worked closely with Environment Canada to ensure a common North American approach.

Climate change is the single greatest long-term global environmental challenge. Cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks are responsible for almost 60 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

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