Obama's Orders: Detroit Must Build Fuel-Efficient Cars—Starting Now

By Rachel Cernansky
May 20, 2009 12:29 AMNov 5, 2019 9:00 PM


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President Obama proposed new fuel efficiency standards today,

establishing the first nationwide regulation for greenhouse gases [

Washington Post]. The proposal is centered around the strictest plan ever for increasing fuel standards for passenger vehicles, sharply raising pressure on struggling automakers to make more efficient cars and trucks [Reuters]. Under the plan, cars would be required to reach an average efficiency of 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016—four years earlier than the deadline imposed by the 2007 energy bill. Light trucks would be required to reach 30 mpg. The new rules would pose a challenge for car manufacturers: the White House estimates the current average efficiency to be 25 mpg. The new standards would resolve the spat between California and auto manufacturers over implementing the state's emissions regulations [ClimateWire]. In return for the strict national rules, California will drop its plans to impose strict state-wide standards for fuel efficiency, which had been

bitterly resisted by both carmakers and President George Bush. In practice California’s rules tend to override milder national regulations, as it is cheaper to follow them than to produce different vehicles [The Economist].

The leading U.S. automakers participated in the negotiations that led to the new agreement, and the companies pronounced themselves happy to have avoided a patchwork of state regulations.

"We are pleased that President Obama is taking decisive and positive action as we work together toward one national standard for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions that will be good for the environment and the economy," Ford said in a statement [Washington Post].

The program covers model year 2012 to model year 2016 [and will result in] a projected reduction in oil consumption of approximately 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program.... that's more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined[Boston Globe]. Related Content: 80beats: Obama Reverses Bush Policy and Seeks to Rein in Tailpipe Emissions 80beats: Obama Moves to Undo Bush-Era Environmental Policies 80beats: Obama Talks up Clean Energy, While Republican Response Nettles Scientists 80beats: Hydrogen Car Goes Down Like the Hindenburg: DoE Kills the Program

Image: Flickr / cosmic spanner

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