New fuel economy standards for 2017 to 2025 will save drivers money at the pump, reduce pollution and foreign oil dependence and preserve people's ability to choose bigger vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs, the Obama administration said Tuesday.
The standards call for average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025. They call for "steady yearly improvement, not radical overnight changes," said Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
She and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who announced finalization of the standards in a conference call with reporters, said they also will promote innovation and new technology, creating jobs. The U.S. "will lead the world in building the cars and trucks of the future," Ms. Jackson said.
The standards, developed in conjunction with automakers and environmental and consumer groups, will nearly double fuel economy compared with vehicles currently on the road, the administration said. They will reduce oil consumption by 2 million barrels per day, or roughly half of what the U.S. currently imports from OPEC.
The fuel savings realized by the typical driver will reach $8,000 over the life of a vehicle purchased in 2025 -- well exceeding the estimated $1,800 higher cost of the more efficient cars and trucks.
"These fuel standards represent the single most important step we've ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," President Barack Obama said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "This historic agreement builds on the progress we've already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption."
"Today is a monumental day for the American people, the U.S. auto industry and this administration's efforts to make our cars more efficient, helping families save more at the pump while still preserving consumer choice," Mr. LaHood said.
The administration began negotiations with automakers last year, aiming for a 56 mpg standard in hopes of reducing emissions and oil consumption. Thirteen automakers representing 90 percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. have agreed to the new rules.
The administration's previous standards for model years 2011 to 2016 require fuel efficiency in the final year equivalent to 35.5 mpg.
Ms. Jackson said that when Mr. Obama took office, fuel efficiency standards hadn't been upgraded since the mid-1980s.
"In the space of three years we have been able to make long-overdue progress that is cleaning up the air we breathe, making our energy future more secure, helping create new jobs and saving drivers money," she said.
Combined, the standards will reduce global-warming emissions from cars and light trucks by 50 percent by 2025, the administration estimated.
Mr. Obama announced the proposed standards in July 2011, with the support of Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo.
The standards also have the support of the United Auto Workers, whose president said in a statement that they "will help propel the auto industry forward by giving American families long-term relief from volatile fuel prices. Lowering the total cost of driving will make automobiles more affordable and expand the market for new vehicles.
"The standards will also provide certainty for manufacturers in planning their investments and creating jobs in the auto industry as they add more fuel-saving technology to their vehicles," he said.
The standards allow a "midterm evaluation" to review them and make changes, the Obama administration said.
"A wide range of technologies are currently available for automakers to meet the new standards, including advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories, and improvements in air conditioning systems," it said.
The program also provides incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electrics, fuel cells and natural gas vehicles.
Environmental groups statewide agree that the standards would eliminate hundreds of millions of tons of toxic emissions and reduce cases of asthma, heart disease and respiratory disease, especially in children and seniors. Emissions of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, will be reduced 20 percent.
"In fact, vehicles are the fastest growing source of pollution linked to climate change," the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia said in a news release. "Under the new proposed cars standard, Americans can expect to save billions of dollars in unnecessary health costs associated with tailpipe emissions because of reductions in soot, smog and other pollutants."
Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), working since 2002 to reduce vehicle-emission standards through lawsuits and public campaigns, will celebrate the announcement by marching in Pittsburgh's Labor Day Parade with the United Auto Workers, with supporters planning to drive fuel-efficient vehicles.
"The ruling gives us a lot to celebrate," said George Jugovic Jr., PennFuture president and chief executive officer, noting benefits to health and environment, along with technological advances, new jobs and a $1 per gallon decrease in gasoline prices.
The new standards also will cut the gap in fuel efficiency between the United States and Europe and Japan. "There's not much negative to say about it," said Jamin Bogi, education and outreach coordinator for Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution. But the standards won't take full effect for 13 years, which includes three election cycles, which would allow changes in the standards or delays in their implementation.
Modern vehicles already efficiently burn gasoline and turn it into carbon dioxide, said Neil Donahue, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies. A doubling of fuel efficiency means half the pollution, which includes fine particulates, nitrogen oxide and ozone, all of which cause health problems.