Breaking: Obama to raise new car fuel efficiency standard to 39 mpg by 2016 — The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2.

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"Breaking: Obama to raise new car fuel efficiency standard to 39 mpg by 2016 — The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2."

UPDATE:  The NYT story is not entirely accurate, and, separately, sources tell me there appears to be a little confusion as to exactly what mpg standard is set for what class of vehicles (see below).

UPDATE2:  The numbers appear to be 39 mpg for cars, 30 mpg for light trucks (see here).

For all those who are worried that the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill represents the alpha and the omega of energy policy, the NYT reports today:

The Obama administration will issue new national requirements for the emissions and mileage of cars and light trucks in an effort to end a long-running conflict among the states, the federal government and auto manufacturers, industry officials said Monday.

President Obama will announce as early as Tuesday that he will combine California’s tough new auto-emissions rules with the existing corporate average fuel economy standard to create a single new national standard, the officials said. As a result, cars and light trucks sold in the United States will be roughly 30 percent cleaner and more fuel-efficient by 2016.

I agree with Dan Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign (and formerly of Sierra club)

“This is a very big deal,” said Daniel Becker

Kudos to team Obama for putting this deal together.  Here are more details:

the president would grant California’s longstanding request that its tailpipe emissions standards be imposed nationally. That request was denied by the Bush administration but has been under review by top Obama administration officials since January.

The italicized sentence is inaccurate.  California never asked that its emissions standard be imposed nationally, since, of course, it has no right to make such a request under the Clean Air Act.  It merely asked to be allowed to have a separate, tougher emissions standard as the law allows.  Other states may then choose between the California standard and the national standard.

But Mr. Obama is planning to go further, putting in place new mileage requirements to be administered by the Department of Transportation that would match the stringency of the California program.

This is a very big deal,” said Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign, a group that has pushed for tougher mileage and emissions standards with the goal of curbing the heat-trapping gases that have been linked to global warming. “This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.”

… The current standards are 27.5 miles a gallon for cars and about 24 miles a gallon for trucks. The new mileage and emissions rules will gradually tighten, beginning with 2011 models, until they reach the 2016 standards.

The auto industry is not expected to challenge the rule, which provides two things they have long asked for: certainty on a timetable and a single national standard….

President Obama became personally involved in the issue because he is also trying to find a way to rescue the American automobile companies from their financial crisis….

Mr. Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency in January to reconsider the Bush administration’s past rejection of the California application. The president also instructed the Transportation Department to draw up rules to supplement a 2007 law requiring a 40 percent improvement in gas mileage for autos and light trucks by 2020.

The Bush administration failed to write any regulations to enforce the 2007 law.

Daniel J. Weiss, an environmental policy analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, said that under the White House plan, California would retain the ability to set its own emissions standards in the future when the current program expires.

He also said that the new administration program was very close in language and intent to a provision in the climate change and energy bill now before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That bill calls for a “harmonization” of the California and federal regulatory programs to provide a nationwide standard.

He said the standards were being written so that the car companies would already be on track to meet the standards set in the first few years of the program. The cars and trucks that will be sold in that period are already in the design phase. But starting in 2013 and 2014, the new rules will begin to bite, Mr. Weiss said.

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23 Responses to Breaking: Obama to raise new car fuel efficiency standard to 39 mpg by 2016 — The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2.

  1. Rick Covert says:

    Joe,

    April Fools Day was over 6 weeks ago. 42 mpg by 2016, seriously?!

  2. ZS says:

    This is indeed wonderful news. And I’m glad that the timetable is on a relatively short scale, ending in 2016, so that progress can be assessed and an even stronger CAFE standard can be implemented post-2016.

  3. Karl says:

    It’s almost hard to believe this is true.

    At long last we are heading towards the cars of the future. Electric and plug in cars are going to be on the road in 3 years and more will come.

    Really, fantastic news.

  4. oxnardprof says:

    As time moves on, I can see that President Obama recognizes the importance of dealing with climate change. I was glad to note that he was personally involved in moving this issue forwared. Waxman Markey is only the first step in a long process; it is important that we continue to watch how policies are carried out, and support the President is his efforts.

    I am amazed at how much this last election mattered.

  5. vfx says:

    The stated requirement difference between “cars” and “light trucks” is waaaay to big. Manufacturers will jump through a thousand hoops to make every family car into a Crossover. that will actually decrease their fuel economy.

    Fix the loophole in car/truck definition.

    [JR: it is always possible that manufacturers will try to make vehicles that the public will be exceedingly uninterested in once gasoline is back above four dollars a gallon in a few years, and then above five dollars a gallon. We’ll have to see the exact language to know what they can and can’t do.]

  6. paulm says:

    Obama gets it!

  7. Lou Grinzo says:

    To use a technical economics term: Yowza!

    This is great news for the electrification of cars. Even a PHEV with only a 10 mile battery range will stretch the vehicle’s MPG considerably in daily use.

  8. vfx says:

    vfx: Fix the loophole in car/truck definition.

    “[JR: it is always possible that manufacturers will try to make vehicles that the public will be exceedingly uninterested in once gasoline is back above four dollars a gallon in a few years, and then above five dollars a gallon. We’ll have to see the exact language to know what they can and can’t do.]”

    It would not be the first time we have legislated against stupidity. Their current predicament shows they have been clueless. Automakers should wipe the slate clean of the corporate staff of climate change deniers that helped them get where they are now.

    “Fix” could also mean to raise that laughable 26.2 truck MPG number closer to the car’s 42 MPG requirement, but addressing the definition loophole seems less overt.

  9. K L Reddington says:

    Ethanol burners create CO2. It seems gasolene creates Carbon monoxide. I read about the highly confidential document by the administration legal staff and it mentions the penalties for small businness.
    They can get clobbered on providing expensive healthcare coverage and then penalties for high energy costs. I suspect we will have more barter and cash business going on.

  10. This is great news. I just want to kiss the guy!

  11. john says:

    This is great! Fantastic.

  12. Ken says:

    Re “President Obama will announce as early as Tuesday that he will combine California’s tough new auto-emissions rules with the existing corporate average fuel economy standard to create a single new national standard”

    Four questions:

    (1) Which will it be: an emission standard or a fuel-economy standard? (California scrupulously avoided structuring its Pavley regulations as a fuel-economy standard, to avoid conflict with federal preemption rules.)

    (2) Will the new federal standard preempt California’s even tougher “Pavley II” regulations under AB 32?

    (3) California’s standard was based on the AB-1493 mandate requiring “the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.” Will federal standards be based on any comparable requirement?

    (4) The California standard, when fully phased in by 2016, would be 205 gm-CO2/mi for cars and 332 gm-CO2/mi for light trucks. Has anyone in the federal government, or in any of the state governments that have adopted California’s standard, seen or understood the calculations underlying these numbers?

  13. Jeremy Johnson says:

    Just thinking out-loud here. Didn’t “we the people” just buy GM. Thus it seems to make good sense that this is being done. Wouldn’t it also behoove us as share-holders of GM to push the company to far exceed the standards, and focus exclusively on PHEV and electric cars and then in the near future push for even tougher legislation, from capital hill, that strongly favors PHEV and electric cars?

    Perhaps we as shareholders could vote for GM to buy / partner with companies like Aptera, or the winner of the Automotive X Prize. What I’m getting at it the american public now controls three sides of the automative industry, i.e. the government policies, the industry (GM) and the consumers, seems like we should be able to get whatever we want with little resistance.

    I wasn’t really happy about the deal with GM but if we own it, seems like we should ensure it does what we need as a country (more fuel efficient / electric cars) while becoming strongly profitable. The whole debacle could turn out to be a great opportunity to get GM and the greater automative industry as a whole off its arse and focus it on fixing the environment, creating jobs, and return surplus profits into the american treasury.

    Now how do we actually get our voices heard by the powers that be and start lobbying for more changes like this?

  14. Greg N says:

    Hmm.

    Forgive me if I don’t get excited.

    I get 52 mpg today. Viewed from Europe, these proposals aren’t ambitious, they’re embarrassing.

    All of us are wasting CO2, of course, but the US obsession with gigantic cars has to be the worst waste of all.

  15. Thomas says:

    I’m with Greg N – from Europe, this does not seem worthy of all the praise above. We should ask for more.

  16. Jade A. says:

    What an embarrassment. 39 MPG is extremely laaaaaaaaaame! To add to the embarrassment the administration can’t get its story straight about the CAFE standard. TIME Magazine says it’s 35MPG. Climate Progress is saying 39MPG, and the NYTIMES was quoted as saying it was going to be 42MPG. We need AT LEAST 50MPG for cars, and AT LEAST 40MPG for light trucks. This news only reinforces the view that I, and many others like myself share in that the United States is a country that can’t get things done anymore.

  17. hapa says:

    whatever the MPG, the new vehicle standard doesn’t help americans who are most vulnerable to fuel cost spikes, because the new vehicles won’t be comfortably in the price range of low income folks for a few years.

    because of this — while we wait for high-efficiency personal vehicles work their way into the “long tail” of the economy and we decide about trains and sprawl and bike access and distribution models and all that — we MUST engage in an all-out effort to improve the fuel performance of buses, delivery vehicles, and service vehicles, and deploy/retrofit widely.

    the first round of “oh gawd that’s expensive” diesel fuel hit the public sector like a ton of bricks. now the public sector is broke, how many tons of bricks will the second spike feel like?

  18. Frank C. says:

    Europe’s diesel cars get 50mpg….but pollute much more than US diesels. Europe should fix that. Good re: carbon, bad re: N02 and particulates.

  19. Yuebing says:

    Half of a wedge?

    “1 wedge of vehicle efficiency — all cars 60 mpg, with no increase in miles traveled per vehicle”

  20. Neil Howes says:

    I can understand some people thinking 39mpg by 2016 is not high enough, but this is better than 35mpg by 2020, and I see no reason why it cannot increase by 2mpg very year after 2016 until all cars are EV or PHEV’s getting >100mpg.

    This will ensure PHEV’s like the Chevy Volt will be a success whatever the price of gasoline in 2010-12.

    Australia doesn’t have any standards so will probably become a dumping ground for surplus SUV’s. We lack a leader with vision.

  21. Sasparilla says:

    This was unexpected (till it leaked) and great news. As to the criticisms that its nothing compared Europe etc., in one sense that is correct it doesn’t get us to Europe etc. – but, like the debate over the WMDD, there’s what you want and whats politically possible.

    This is huge leap forward from where we are in the US and where we were going – and it wasn’t on the radar as something that was happening till the last week.

    We need lots of nice surprises like this.

  22. connor says:

    Am I right in assuming this would equate to a total 2.5% reduction in the worlds overall CO2 emissions?

    Going by the figures here and here:

    http://www.wri.org/publication/content/8468

    http://science-news.org/carbon-emissions/motor-vehicles-and-carbon-emissions-a-general-overview/