President Obama Announces New National Fuel Economy Standards Plan to Cut U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions
By Debra DeHaney-Howard
May 25, 2009
President Barack Obama announced at a May 19 White House Rose Garden ceremony new national fuel standards, going well beyond previously-adopted requirements for fuel efficiency in vehicles and further curbing future greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the transportation sector. This landmark agreement was forged among leaders of the U.S. auto industry, national environmental organizations and others, including state governments.
Obama’s plan – which must now go through the federal rule-making process – calls for a significant increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, for new cars and light trucks. Specifically, the proposal, applicable to 2012 – 2016 model years, requires all automakers to produce passenger cars that achieve 35.5 miles per gallon (MPG) and light trucks that achieve 30 MPG by 2016. Currently, fuel efficiency standards are set at 27.5 MPG for cars and 23.1 MPG for light trucks.
White House officials estimate that the new rules will cut greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks by 30 percent. In announcing the plan, President Obama said, “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.”
Obama was joined by key members of his Cabinet, notably U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, whose agency regulates greenhouse gas emissions, and Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood, whose department historically has been the lead on setting new fuel economy standards. Both agencies will manage the formal rulemaking process that will guide development of the new standards. Former U.S. EPA Administration Carol Browner, now Obama’s Energy and Climate czar, was credited with helping bring the parties to make this agreement possible.
The new federal standards largely conform to what California had previously adopted, which had triggered a multi-year struggle between U.S. EPA and the state over granting a waiver to allow the California law to go forward. While it was the first state to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, others – 13 in all as well as the District of Columbia – modeled their state laws after California’s standards.
Obama Praises Industry Support for Standards
Obama praised auto industry leaders for their broad support and commitment to for working with his Administration to implement this agreement and the planning requirements. “As a result of this agreement, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And, at the time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century.”