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2010-04-06 | New Policies Help U.S. Address Climate Change

New Policies Help U.S. Address Climate Change

06 04 2010

Fuel efficiency standards for light vehicles go into effect in early 2011

Washington — The Obama administration is implementing new fuel efficiency standards for cars — the first nationwide greenhouse gas emissions rules for vehicles in U.S. history.

The new standards, established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation, will affect new cars that hit the market as soon as next year and gradually increase efficiency to 34.1 U.S. miles per gallon (14.5 kilometers per liter) by 2016. That will cap emissions at 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, or per 1.6 kilometers.

Cars, minivans, pickup trucks and so-called sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) account for nearly 60 percent of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. This means that even though the new standards won’t match those adopted by Europe, Japan and China, they will have a profound effect, saving the United States 1.8 billion barrels of oil between 2012 and 2016, the EPA said in a press statement.

“This is a victory for our planet and everyone who knows that we must take action today and not push the challenge of climate change off to the next generation,” said Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA, which is implementing the new standards under the United States’ Clean Air Act. “We expect to reduce greenhouse emissions by the equivalent of 42 million cars over the life of the program.”

While these new cars may cost the consumer more up front, American drivers stand to save as much as $3,000 on fuel over the life of their 2016 model cars, Jackson said. The Clean Air Act, a law passed in 1970, tasked EPA with protecting the quality of U.S. air. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling held that as part of that responsibility, the agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

While regulating car emissions is one part of its work under the act’s authority, EPA announced March 29 that it intends to require factories and other large “stationary facilities” to get Clean Air Act permits for their emissions, beginning in 2011.


On March 31, President Obama unveiled a plan to allow offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. This move, which drew some criticism from environmental groups, is needed to make the nation less dependent on foreign oil and ensure a stable energy supply in coming decades, Obama said.

“There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision,” he acknowledged. “But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy.”

The new plan also affirmed that there will be no drilling off the Pacific coast, or in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which U.S. environmental groups long have opposed.

“Moving toward clean energy is about our security. It’s about our economy. And it’s about the future of our planet,” Obama said. “And what I hope is that the policies we’ve laid out — from hybrid fleets to offshore drilling, from nuclear energy to wind energy — underscore the seriousness with which my administration takes this challenge. It’s a challenge that requires us to think and act anew.”