The Obama administration is working to reduce US greenhouse gases (GHGs) with new national rules for vehicle emissions. A day after President Obama disappointed many environmentalists with his decision to allow coastal drilling, the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued vehicle efficiency mandates. Under the new rules, the US car and light-truck fleet must reach an average fuel efficiency of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Canada adopted identical emission standards for its vehicles.
Tougher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil from cars sold between 2012-16. These fuel economy requirements will also encourage new and emerging technologies while cutting GHG emissions by 21 percent by 2030.
An administration official estimated that the new requirements may increase the average cost of a vehicle by about $1,000, but that the consumer would recoup that payment in three years, largely through fuel savings.
The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that in 2020, the new standards will save consumers $65 billion in fuel costs by cutting oil consumption by 1.3 million barrels a day, while also cutting carbon dioxide emissions by more than 220 million metric tons that year.
The new fuel efficiency standards are a significant achievement. Although it remains unclear whether Congress can pass climate legislation this year, the Obama administration continues to move forward on the environment using all the instruments at its disposal.