Obama and EPA Launch 34.1-MPG Fuel-Economy Rules for 2016

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Barack Obama

Barack Obama

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The other shoe has dropped: Yesterday, two U.S. government agencies jointly announced the final fuel-economy rules for model year 2012 through 2016 vehicles, giving automakers a single national set of standards and averting the threat of state-by-state regulation.

Starting with 2012, automakers must improve the fleet average fuel economy of their light-duty vehicles (cars, crossovers, SUVs, light vans, and pickup trucks) by roughly 5 percent each year, reducing tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 percent at the same time.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adminstrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adminstrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama

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Ray LaHood

Ray LaHood

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican member of the Cabinet, feigns being a blocking back for President Barack Obama as he arrives backstage to meet with GOP House leaders before speaking to their issues conference at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, Md., Jan. 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza; http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse)

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican member of the Cabinet, feigns being a blocking back for President Barack Obama as he arrives backstage to meet with GOP House leaders before speaking to their issues conference at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, Md., Jan. 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza; http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse)

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A state-by-state emissions framework could prove prohibitively costly to automakers

A state-by-state emissions framework could prove prohibitively costly to automakers

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2016 average: 34.1 MPG

Across the entire industry, the combined light-vehicle fleet average will reach approximately 34.1 miles per gallon.

Different sizes and classes of models must meet different standards, e.g. pickup trucks have lower mileage requirements than subcompacts.


The standards were jointly issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The DoT, through its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is responsible for setting Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) gas-mileage standards. The EPA regulates tailpipe emissions including greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), under the Clean Air Act.

Significantly, Canada announced similar light-duty vehicle emissions regulations yesterday as well, meaning common regulations across North America. The EPA and NHTSA "worked closely" with Environment Canada to ensure similar rules for both countries.

Because CO2 produced is almost directly proportional to fuel consumed, the EPA mandate to regulate its emissions from vehicles meant it was indirectly setting mileage standards.

California leads

Initial limits had been set by the state of California, raising the spectre of separate national standards automakers would have to meet.

After the Obama Administration took office in January 2009, it brought the two agencies and the automakers together to craft a single national standard supported by all parties.

The new regulations finalize a proposal first issued last September, which received a remarkable 130,000 comments from the public.

The announcement fulfilled a promise to provide a single standard to U.S. auto producers, with enough notice that they can make capital commitments to tool up for future fuel-efficient vehicles.

Higher cost but $3K lifetime savings?

In a press release, the EPA said the new regulations would save the "average buyer" of a 2016 car "$3,000 over the life of the vehicle," even though that vehicle may cost more initially due to higher-technology engines, transmissions, and other equipment.

The standards will also cut CO2 emissions by almost 1 billion metric tons of the lifetime of the 2012-2016 vehicles, and conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the same period.

Smaller, more efficient engines

Automakers will use a variety of methods to meet the standards, including smaller, more efficient engines with direct injection and/or turbochargers; more sophisticated automatic and dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs);  hybrid-electric systems; and clean diesel engines.

The bulk of the gains will come from "more widespread adoption of conventional technologies" already in use, which also include tires with lower rolling resistance, more aerodynamic vehicles, and lighter-weight materials.

Manufacturers can gain additional EPA credits for improvements to the efficiency of auto air-conditioning systems, but those do not apply to meeting the CAFE requirements. Hence the EPA standard is slightly stricter--the equivalent of 35.5 mpg--so that it has the same limits as NHTSA once those credits are granted.

Only a small percentage of the improvements by 2016 will come from pure electric vehicles (e.g. 2011 Nissan Leaf) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (e.g. 2011 Chevrolet Volt or 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid). They are expected to have more impact by 2020 and after.

"Win" for all

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the new standards were "an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand-in-hand," saying they were "a win" for automakers and drivers, for innovators and entrepreneurs, and for the planet.

Transportation secretary Ray LaHood called the new fuel-economy requirements were "ambitious, but achievable."


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Comments (17)
  1. Sadly this policy has little, if any, impact on the enviornment, but a burdensome impact on domestic automakers and eventually jobs. Oh by the way, how are we doing on jobs? I'll take a little more pollution and alot more jobs right now,how about you? They just don't get it!

  2. The administration continues to take us forward to 1980.Remember those great Carter era cars, now refered to as the "malaise era" cars? What can we expect next, odd/even gas days? I know one Georgia peanut farmer who is breathing a lot easier (and I'm not talking clean air) since his reputation is being taken by a community organizer from Illinois.

  3. well, approximately 162,000 jobs were created last month (while 23,000 were lost).
    and although it's certainly not going to reverse climate change, cutting an estimated billion metric tons of CO2/saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil certainly isn't a bad thing.

  4. In the long run this will actually save car buyers money because of improved mileage and will create jobs because car manufacturers will now be investing in new technology and research to meet the requirements. Not to mention the environmental benefits. So I really dont understand the criticism of this decision.

  5. They are criticizing because that is what they have been programmed to do by Fox News... they are incapable of thinking for themselves. I don't see how this would possibly have a negative impact on jobs either... but I'm sure they likes of Glen Beck can make something up, again.

  6. there is no global warming you dumb people. I would love for you to name one thing the government does right everything they have put there hands in has gone belly up. well now that they are getting in the car business im sure that will go to shit seeing that they are all lawyers and don't know how to drive and car much less make one. no jobs will be made, cars will only cost more do to government meddling. its the law of government they are poison anything they touch goes to hell.

  7. The appropriate metaphor is "pushing a string". The feds want everyone to consume less fuel without raising fuel prices. The economy doesn't work that way, no matter how many talking head pass legislation otherwise or rail against it on talk radio. The only way 34.1 happens by 2016 is if hybrids are credited with getting sky-high-yet-unverifiable mpg figures. (e.g. the new Porsche 918 is claiming 78 mpg or some such nonsense). Believe me, by 2015 every manufacturer will be deploying smoke and mirrors and the feds will concede or face a biblical poopstorm of grief from citizens.

  8. Not for trucks. And they way they've stretched the definition of truck (a PT Cruiser is a truck!), the car companies will just end up stretching truck to mean anything that's larger than a Chevy Cobalt.
    Trucks have to hit 28mpg, not 34 under this plan.
    And note these measurements are not using the current methods, but the more optimistic measures used up until a few years ago.

  9. Hughes, you really convinced me with your counter-global warming argument. Really riveting stuff. I don't understand all of the negativity. If you ask me it's a step in the right direction. Even if you discount climate change, crude oil is a vanishing resource. Since our economy relies so heavily on it, any measure to cut back on consumption seems positive to me. But I guess it'll really stifle your monster truck options?

  10. Basic economics: The equilibrium amount of gas used is where the value
    of using the gas equals the cost of buying the gas. If you make cars
    more efficient, the value of using a gallon of gas increases because
    the car can go farther using that gallon of gas. Thus the amount
    spent on gas goes up. If the price per gallon stays the same, that
    means the usage of gas goes up, which implies more greenhouse gas emissions.

  11. Since the fed is so reluctant to raise interest rates even when necessary, it would make more sense for them to increase the fed tax on gas instead. Of course, that would require a decrease in said tax at the beginning of the economic cycle and cutting a federal tax is something politicians as a whole only want to do in the run-up to their reelection. The timing would always be wrong.

  12. why not diesel? The vw's already get 50 + mpg why aren't more companies doing this

  13. What people don't seem to realize is that protecting the environment actually saves us money in the long-run through; decreased health-issues and spending on health care, less dependence on foreign energy supply, etc. Also, we need jobs - yes, but we need smart jobs that are sustainable. We need to bring ourselves into check with how we are living because it's unsustainable. Our own greed and selfishness is why we don't have jobs because we believe it is our right to have everything we want and no longer consider the basics (food, shelter, water) to be essentials anymore. We now need cable, tv's, big cars, food from everywhere in the world, little nik-naks that serve no purpose, etc. etc. to get through life. Simplify your needs.
    Side note: Beer is still considered essential

  14. I like that the Obama administration it trying to move forward and improve things. No global warming, well should we still not try to improve our environment? Better fuel mileage means we burn less fuel, put out less pollution, and may buy less imports. As seen by the BP fiasco it is best not to make decisions only on profits. By the way Fox news is a great information source for Nazis!

  15. Farewell Corvette, Mustang, Camaro, Viper, Challenger, need I go on?

  16. This is the last thing that we need to be worrying about however our idiot president fails to see the real needs of our country impeach Obama!

  17. Our government is so smart; let's make the auto manafacturers spend millions on fuel mileage research and sacrifice safety. Let's make these cars so light and chinsey so they can fart rainbows for all the tree huggers that when I hit a deer in upstate new york my piece of crap car is totaled or I am dead. It is the size of my daughter's Power Wheel Barbie Jeep; because the goverment says it needs to get 34 mpg. I'm angry and I pay enough in taxes. My family deserves research in safty, not economy.

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