Administration Announcing New Auto Emissions Standards

May 19, 2009

The Obama Administration is prepared to announce today more stringent auto emissions standards. This announcement, as reported by Steven Mufson of the Washington Post and others, is slated to establish the first nationwide regulation for greenhouse gases and raise vehicle fuel efficiency targets to 35.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by the year 2016. Transportation accounts for about one-third of American greenhouse gas emissions, so aggressively pursuing targets that increase fuel economy will have an important impact on our nation’s emissions. The plan that the Obama Administration is supporting mirrors the standards that California has adopted to reduce tailpipe emissions. The California clean cars standard was the first of its kind to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes and was adopted by 13 other states and the District of Columbia. Automakers fiercely opposed the California clean cars standard, claiming that the requirement to abide by two separate emissions standards (the less stringent federal and more stringent California standards) would negatively impact their business. By increasing the federal fuel efficiency standard to meet the California one, the Obama administration is accommodating to the wishes of the automakers and pleasing drivers. The new fuel efficiency standard would raise the average fuel economy for cars and light trucks to 39 MPG and 30 MPG respectively. Though there may be some short-term price increases for new, higher-mileage vehicles, that cost is likely to be offset by fuel savings over the useful life of the car. Furthermore, as more fuel efficient cars and trucks become more commonplace and the technology becomes more standardized, the price of these better vehilces is likely to come down — much in the same way that the price of including seatbelts and airbags have.