US President Barack Obama's tough new fuel economy and emissions standards have been widely welcomed.
He unveiled Tuesday new standards automakers should have to adopt by 2016, saying the rules will "help America break it dependence on oil, reduce harmful pollution and begin the transition to a clean-energy economy."
The rules, brokered with help from the auto industry, increase the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 35.5 mpg within seven years and cut tailpipe emissions by almost 40 percent. The standards mirror those California sought to adopt last year over the objections of automakers and the Bush administration.
"For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America," the President said in announcing the policy.
Interestingly both environmentalists and auto execs were united in hailing the new rules.
"In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible," Obama said. "It's no secret that these are folks who've occasionally been at odds for years, even decades.... That gives you a sense of how impressive and significant it is that these leaders from across the country are willing to set aside the past for the sake of the future."
The proposal would increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard 5 percent annually beginning in 2012 to 35.5 mpg for automobiles. The current standard is 27.5 mpg. Average fuel economy of light trucks will rise from 23.5 mpg to 30.
Any increases consumers might see in the cost of new vehicles would be offset by the money they'll save on fuel, the president said. He noted that that program would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program.
That, he said, is "more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya and Nigeria combined."
Environmental advocates praised the president for at long last tightening fuel efficiency and emissions regulations. Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, called the policy "the single biggest step" ever to curb global warming. The Union of Concerned Scientists said the proposal will curb U.S. oil dependence by about 1.4 million barrels a day by 2020, which is nearly what we import each day from Saudi Arabia alone.
The new standards also will cut carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 230 million metric tons in 2020, which is the equivalent of taking 34 million cars and trucks off the road, according to the Union. The net savings to consumers will be $30 billion in 2020, even after covering the cost of technology improvements, based on a gas price of $2.25 per gallon. The savings climb to $70 billion if gas prices hit $4 per gallon again.
Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, "Now President Obama is delivering on his promise to strengthen the auto industry, while reducing vehicle pollution and our dependence on oil."
Automakers worked with the administration to craft the proposal, which they said finally brings a measure of stability and uniformity to fuel economy rules and places responsibility for such regulations squarely with the federal government. California will scuttle its plan to adopt tough new emissions rules, easing the industry's concerns that it would face a "patchwork" of regulations that would be difficult to meet, Tony Borroz wrote on the Wired.
Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement, "Automakers are committed to working with the President to develop a national program administered by the federal government."