Obama Administration Sets National Standards for Fuel Economy and GHG Emissions

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have jointly established new federal rules that set national greenhouse gas emissions standards, with a stated goal of significantly increasing the fuel economy of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States. The Obama Administration claims that the rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered.

The final rules, issued by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA, establish increasingly stringent fuel economy standards under NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy program and greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act for 2012 through 2016 model-year vehicles. Starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the rules together require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5% every year. NHTSA has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year, reaching an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined industry-wide fleet for model year 2016.

Because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet the EPA standards, but not the NHTSA standards, the EPA standards require that by the 2016 model-year, manufacturers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The EPA standard would be equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions came from fuel economy improvements.

Specifically, the new national program aims to:
● Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated, equivalent to taking 50 million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.
● Conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated.
● Enable the average car buyer of a 2016 model year vehicle to enjoy a net savings of $3,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle, as upfront technology costs are offset by lower fuel costs

NHTSA and EPA expect automobile manufacturers will meet these standards by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies that are already in commercial use, such as more efficient engines, transmissions, tires, aerodynamics and materials, as well as improvements in air conditioning systems. Although the standards can be met with conventional technologies, EPA and NHTSA also expect that some manufacturers may choose to pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies like hybrid vehicles clean diesel engines, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles.

In conjunction with the United States, Canada has also introduced new light duty vehicle GHG-emissions regulations. U.S. EPA and NHTSA have worked closely with Environment Canada to ensure a common North American approach.

Related Articles:

Manufacturers Challenge EPA on Clean Air Act

World Economic Forum Releases Logistics Carbon Emissions Guidelines

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