Obama Administration Moves Clean Cars into the Fast Lane

Environment Rhode Island

Washington, DC — Today the Obama administration announced that it was starting to develop new clean vehicle standards that could dramatically cut oil useand global warming pollution, as well assave billions for consumers at the gas pump.  The new standards would cover cars and light trucks in model years 2017-2025. Environment Rhode Island is urging the administration to finalize a standard that requires cars and light trucks to achieve a fleet-wide fuel efficiency average of at least 60 miles-per-gallon (mpg) by 2025.  This would  result in Americans saving $101 billion at the gas pump in 2030 and cut annual oil use by 44 billion gallons in that year, or nearly one-third of the oil used by cars and light trucks this year, according to research by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“American ingenuity has given us the technologies we need to reduce our dependence on oil, jumpstart our economy, and cut global warming pollution by making our cars much cleaner and more fuel-efficient,” said Alex Wall, Federal Global Warming Associate with Environment Rhode Island.  “By setting the highest possible fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards,the Obama administration can continue its progress toward a stronger economy and a healthier planet.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and California Environmental Protection Agencykicked off the rulemaking process today by issuing a Notice of Intent, which outlined the range for fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards being considered for cars and light trucks.  The agencies announced that the clean car technologies exist to reduce global warming pollution from the average car and light truck by as much as 6 percent each year between 2017 and 2025.  A 6 percent annual decrease in global warming pollution would correspond roughly with the 60mpg by 2025 fleet-wide average that Environment Rhode Island and other groups have been urging the Administration to adopt.

“The Obama administration’s announcement confirms scientific analysis that we can cost-effectively make 60 mile-per-gallon cars the norm and not the exception,” said Wall.  “In order to fully seize this historic opportunity to reduce our dependence on oil and save Americans money at the gas pump, the administration shouldmove clean cars into the fast lane by finalizing a standard of at least 60 miles-per-gallon by 2025,” said Wall.

Wall was also joined by Fran Pavley in applauding today’s announcement by the Obama administration.  Pavley is a state senator from California who authored AB 1493, the first statewide tailpipe emission reduction bill in the country that served as a model for the Obama administration’s initial increase in federal fuel efficiency standards and first-ever tailpipe standards for global warming pollution announced earlier this year.

 “California’s clean cars standards have been a triple win for our state’s economy, our energy security, and our environment,” said California State Senator Fran Pavley.  “By setting the strongest possible federal fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards, the Obama administration can bring these tremendous benefits to all Americans – including saving money at the pump.”

A recent national poll showed overwhelming public support for vastly improving the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks. The poll found that 74 percent of likely voters favor increasing the average fuel efficiency standard for cars and light trucks to 60 miles-per-gallon by 2025.

Over the past decade, our federation has built up broad support for strong vehicle standards among state elected officials and helped to pass clean car standards in 14 states. Environment Rhode Island and our sister organizations across the country also helped mobilize dozens of other elected officials, veterans, business owners, and health professionals from across the country to weigh in with the President calling for strong standards, including the Seattle City Council, 43 state and local elected officials in Florida and Pennsylvania, and 12 veterans in Colorado.

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a 30-day comment period before the agencies issue a second Notice of Intent in early November, which is expected to contain a narrowed range of potential standards.  The agencies will then issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking next fall and a final ruling in the summer of 2012. These new standards will build on the administration’s recently finalized standards for cars and light trucks, covering model years 2012-2016, which represented the largest increase in fuel efficiency in more than 30 years and the first-ever global warming tailpipe pollution standards.

A variety of existing technologies could be used by automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of new cars and decrease their global warming pollution. Conventional internal combustion engine vehicles can be made much more efficient by applying technologies like high-strength lightweight materials and six- and seven-speed transmissions, while strong standards will also help bring more hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles onto America’s roads.

Environment Rhode Island is part of a nationwide network of groups—the Go 60 MPG coalition (go60mpg.org)—encouraging the Obama administration to increase fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks to at least 60 miles-per-gallon by 2025 and strengthen global warming pollution standards to no more than 143 grams of pollution per mile by that year.  The coalition is also urging the administration to reduce fuel consumption in tractor trailers by 35% in 2017 and 20% for all other trucks.