New Standards for Cars and Trucks?

EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration team up on a plan to up mpg (miles per gallon) and drop ghg (greenhouse gases)
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EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration team up on a plan to up mpg (miles per gallon) and drop ghg (greenhouse gases)

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed the first national program to improve vehicle fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases. The proposal would provide coordinated national vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions standards, conserve billions of barrels of oil, save consumers money at the pump, increase fuel economy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons.

Passenger cars and light-trucks emit nearly 20% of America's greenhouse gases in the form of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons. In April, EPA provisionally found that these four contaminants and two other greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. 

The proposed national program would require 2016 vehicles to reach 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions were made through fuel economy improvements. If this occurs, Congress’ fuel economy goal of 35.0 mpg by 2020 will be met four years ahead of schedule. “American drivers will keep more money in their pockets, put less pollution into the air, and help reduce a dependence on oil that sends billions of dollars out of our economy every year,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a press release on the NHTSA website. “By bringing together a broad coalition of stakeholders -- including an unprecedented partnership with American automakers -- we have crafted a path forward that is win-win for our health, our environment, and our economy. Through that partnership, we’ve taken the historic step of proposing the nation’s first ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles, and moved substantially closer to an efficient, clean energy future.”

“The increases in fuel economy and the reductions in greenhouse gases we are proposing today would bring about a new era in automotive history,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “These proposed standards would help consumers save money at the gas pump, help the environment, and decrease our dependence on oil – all while ensuring that consumers still have a full range of vehicle choices.”

The vehicles subject to the proposed rules announced today are responsible for almost 60 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. The combined EPA and NHTSA standards would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the light-duty vehicle fleet by about 21 percent in 2030 over the level that would occur in the absence of any new greenhouse gas or fuel economy standards. The greenhouse gas emission reductions this program would bring about are equivalent to the emissions of 42 million cars. And, NHTSA and EPA estimate that car buyers who purchase their vehicle outright would save enough in lower fuel costs over the first three years to offset the increases in vehicle costs. Consumers would save more than $3,000 due to fuel savings over the lifetime of a model year 2016 vehicle.

The light-duty vehicles subject to this proposed National Program account for about 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption. New miles per gallons regulations will conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil, twice the amount of crude oil and products imported in 2008 from the Persian Gulf countries, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration Office. EPA and NHTSA have worked closely with automakers to insure the standards proposed today are both aggressive and achievable given the current financial state of the auto industry.

NHTSA and EPA expect automobile manufacturers would meet these proposed standards by improving engine efficiency, transmissions and tires, as well as increasing the use of start-stop technology and improvements in air conditioning systems. EPA and NHTSA also anticipate that these standards would promote the more widespread use of advanced fuel-saving technologies like hybrid vehicles and clean diesel engines.

NHTSA and EPA are providing a 60-day comment period that begins with publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. The proposal and information about how to submit comments are at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/regulations.htm for EPA and http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.43ac99aefa80569eea57529cdba046a0/ for NHTSA.. Don’t feel like writing your own comments but want to support the new standards? Send comments through the Environmental Defense Fund.

—Berne Broudy