Fuel economy standards for 2017-25 light-duty vehicles proposed

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday, Nov. 16, formally unveiled their joint proposal to set stronger fuel economy and greenhouse gas pollution standards for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars, SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks, currently responsible for nearly 60 percent of U.S. transportation-related petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama administration is taking to strengthen the economy.

The administration says that when combined with other steps it has taken to target increased energy efficiency, the proposal will save Americans more than $1.7 trillion at the pump, nearly $8,000 per vehicle by 2025. The combined actions also will reduce America’s dependence on oil by an estimated 12 billion barrels and, by 2025, reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day – enough to offset almost a quarter of the current level of foreign oil imports, the agencies said.

Taken together, these actions also will slash 6 billion metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the programs, according to EPA and DOT, which added that the newly proposed standards alone will slash oil consumption by 4 billion barrels and cut 2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold in those years.

“These unprecedented standards are a remarkable leap forward in improving fuel efficiency, strengthening national security by reducing our dependence on oil and protecting our climate for generations to come,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We expect this program will not only save consumers money, it will ensure automakers have the regulatory certainty they need to make key decisions that create jobs and invest in the future. We are pleased that we’ve been able to work with the auto industry, the states, and leaders in the environmental and labor communities to move toward even tougher standards for the second phase of the president’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce pollution.”

The proposed program for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars and trucks is expected to require increases in fuel efficiency equivalent to 54.5 mpg if all reductions were made through fuel economy improvements. The agencies said these improvements would save consumers an average of up to $6,600 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a model year 2025 vehicle for a net lifetime savings of $4,400 after factoring in related increases in vehicle cost, and that overall, the net benefit to society from this rule would total more than $420 billion over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in model year 2017-2025.

The newly announced action builds on the first phase of the administration’s national program (2012-2016), which will raise fuel efficiency equivalent to 35.5 mpg by 2016 and result in an average light vehicle tailpipe CO2 level of 250 grams per mile. Taken together, these actions would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half and result in model year 2025 light-duty vehicles with nearly double the fuel economy of model year 2010 vehicles.

“By setting a course for steady improvements in fuel economy over the long term, the Obama administration is ensuring that American car buyers have their choice of the most efficient vehicles ever produced in our country,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “That will save them money, reduce our nation’s oil consumption and cut harmful emissions in the air we breathe. This is an important addition to the landmark clean cars program that President Obama initiated to establish fuel economy standards more than two years ago. The progress we made with the help of the auto industry, the environmental community, consumer groups and others will be expanded upon in the years to come – benefitting the health, the environment and the economy for the American people.”

DOT and EPA say the national policy on fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emissions created by the agencies provides regulatory certainty and flexibility that reduces the cost of compliance for auto manufacturers while reducing oil consumption and harmful air pollution. By continuing the national program developed for model year 2012-2016 vehicles, EPA and DOT says they have designed a proposal that allows manufacturers to keep producing a single, national fleet of passenger cars and light trucks that satisfies all federal and California standards, while also ensuring that consumers will continue to enjoy a full range of vehicle choices with performance, utility and safety features that meet their individual needs.

The standards will rely on innovative technologies that are expected to spur economic growth and create jobs nationwide. Major auto manufacturers already are invested in developing advanced technologies that can reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions beyond the existing model year 2012-2016 standards. In addition, a wide range of technologies currently are available for automakers to meet the new standards, including advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories and improvements in air conditioning systems. The standards should also spur manufacturers to increasingly explore electric technologies such as start/stop, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

The model year 2017-2025 proposal includes a number of incentive programs to encourage early adoption and introduction of “game changing” advanced technologies, such as hybridization for pickup trucks. The proposal follows Obama’s announcement in July that the administration and 13 major automakers representing more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States have agreed to build on the first phase of the national vehicle program. EPA and DOT say they worked closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop the proposal, including manufacturers, the United Auto Workers, the State of California and consumer and environmental groups.

There will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. In addition, DOT and EPA plan to hold several public hearings around the country to allow further public input. California plans to issue its proposal for model year 2017-2025 vehicle greenhouse gas standards on Dec. 7 and will finalize its standards in January.