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US President Obama announces national fuel efficiency policy

20 May 2009

US President Obama announced a new national policy to increase the fuel economy and reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The policy includes proposed new fuel economy standards that cover model years 2012-2016, achieving an average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg for model year 2016. That exceeds the requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, which required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg by model year 2020. The standards will also reduce CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 30% by 2016, down to approximately 250 g CO2/mi. Cars and light trucks cause 17% of the CO2 emissions in the United States.

The new policy represents a collaboration among the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10 of the world’s largest auto manufacturers, the United Auto Workers, the State of California, other state governments, and leading environmentalists.

To implement the new policy, the EPA and DOT will initiate a joint rulemaking for new vehicle standards. The EPA will propose GHG emission standards under the Clean Air Act, and NHTSA (a DOT agency) will propose new CAFE standards under EPCA, as amended by the EISA of 2007.

The EPA is expected to propose a national CO2 vehicle emissions standard to achieve on average 250 g/mi (156 g/km) of CO2 in model year 2016. The standards would be phased-in beginning with the 2012 model year.

The proposed standards are expected to be divided into categories of vehicles, based on the size of the vehicles, and they are expected to include a variety of measures to allow flexibility in meeting the standards. For example, the GHG standards (but not the CAFE) would include credits earned for actions such as implementing advanced air conditioning technologies and using additional technologies that reduce CO2 emissions. Such credits would be tradable among the auto manufacturers.

The two sets of standards—GHG and CAFE—would eventually become harmonized. NHTSA is expected to propose a harmonized CAFE standard of 35.5 mpg for MY 2016. Thus, one national policy for all automakers would be in place, instead of three standards: a DOT CAFE standard, an EPA GHG standard and a California GHG standard that would apply to 13 other states.

Source: The White House (press release | fact sheet)