Tuesday, September 15, 2009

National Vehicle Fuel Efficiency & GHG Emissions Standards Proposed

Sep 15: U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson jointly proposed a rule establishing an "historic national program" that would improve vehicle fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases. They said their proposal builds upon core principles President Obama announced with automakers, the United Auto Workers, leaders in the environmental community, governors and state officials in May [See WIMS 5/19/09], and would provide coordinated national vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions standards. The proposed program would also conserve billions of barrels of oil, save consumers money at the pump, increase fuel economy, and reduce millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA Administrator Jackson said, “American drivers will keep more money in their pockets, put less pollution into the air, and help reduce a dependence on oil that sends billions of dollars out of our economy every year. By bringing together a broad coalition of stakeholders -- including an unprecedented partnership with American automakers -- we have crafted a path forward that is win-win for our health, our environment, and our economy. Through that partnership, we’ve taken the historic step of proposing the nation’s first ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles, and moved substantially closer to an efficient, clean energy future.”

Transportation Secretary LaHood said, “The increases in fuel economy and the reductions in greenhouse gases we are proposing today would bring about a new era in automotive history. These proposed standards would help consumers save money at the gas pump, help the environment, and decrease our dependence on oil -- all while ensuring that consumers still have a full range of vehicle choices.”

Under the proposed program, which covers model years 2012 through 2016, automobile manufacturers would be able to build a single, light-duty national fleet that satisfies all Federal requirements as well as the standards of California and other states. The proposed program includes miles per gallon requirements under NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) program and the first-ever national emissions standards under EPA’s greenhouse gas program. The collaboration of Federal agencies for this proposal also allows for clearer rules for all automakers, instead of three standards (DOT, EPA, and a state standard).

Specifically, the Agencies said the program would: Increase fuel economy by approximately five percent every year; Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons; Save the average car buyer more than $3,000 in fuel costs; and Conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have worked closely to develop the coordinated joint proposal and have met with many stakeholders including automakers to insure the standards proposed today are both aggressive and achievable given the current financial state of the auto industry. NHTSA and EPA expect automobile manufacturers would meet these proposed standards by improving engine efficiency, transmissions and tires, as well as increasing the use of start-stop technology and improvements in air conditioning systems. EPA and NHTSA also anticipate that these standards would promote the more widespread use of advanced fuel-saving technologies like hybrid vehicles and clean diesel engines.

NHTSA and EPA are providing a 60-day comment period that begins with publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. NHTSA has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed CAFE standards. The Draft EIS compares the environmental impacts of the Agency’s proposal and reasonable alternatives. NHTSA is providing a 45-day comment period on the Draft EIS.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a release saying passenger vehicles account for about 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption and nearly 20 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. EDF President Fred Krupp said, "This is a critical step to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and curb pollution that threatens our health. It will deliver immediate benefits for the country as Congress crafts comprehensive climate legislation." EDF indicated in their release that under the proposed new standards from EPA and NHTSA, vehicles would meet an estimated combined average emissions level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile in model year 2016, comparable to 35.5 miles per gallon. The proposed new standards would apply to model year 2012 to 2016 vehicles.

Access a release from DOT and EPA (click here). Access EPA's website on the proposal (click here). Access the NHTSA website on the proposal (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here).