Thursday, April 01, 2010

Administration Touts Joint Final CAFE & GHG Emission Standards

Apr 1: One day following the President's major announcement on opening up offshore drilling areas as part of a comprehensive energy policy [See WIMS 3/31/10], the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. EPA jointly announced another part of the policy -- i.e. "historic" new Federal rules that set the first-ever national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards and will significantly increase the fuel economy of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States. The agencies indicated the rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered. 

    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies. We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air." EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "This is a significant step towards cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand-in-hand. By working together with industry and capitalizing on our capacity for innovation, we've developed a clean cars program that is a win for automakers and drivers, a win for innovators and entrepreneurs, and a win for our planet."

    DOT and EPA received more than 130,000 public comments on the September 2009 proposed rules [See WIMS 9/15/09], with overwhelming support for the strong national policy. Manufacturers will 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 collaboration of federal agencies also allows for clearer rules for all automakers, instead of three standards (DOT, EPA, and a state standard). The rules stem from the core principles President Obama announced with automakers, the United Auto Workers, leaders in the environmental community, governors and state officials in May 2009 [See WIMS 5/19/09], and would provide coordinated national vehicle fuel efficiency and GHG emissions standards.

    The final rules, issued by DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA, establish increasingly stringent fuel economy standards under NHTSA's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program and GHG emission standards under the Clean Air Act for 2012 through 2016 model-year vehicles. Starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the rules together require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide GHG emissions by approximately five percent every year. NHTSA has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year reaching an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined industry-wide fleet for model year 2016.

    Because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet the EPA standards, but not the NHTSA standards, the EPA standards require that by the 2016 model-year, manufacturers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The EPA standard would be equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions came from fuel economy improvements.

    NHTSA and EPA expect automobile manufacturers will meet these standards by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies that are already in commercial use, such as more efficient engines, transmissions, tires, aerodynamics, and materials, as well as improvements in air conditioning systems. Although the standards can be met with conventional technologies, EPA and NHTSA also expect that some manufacturers may choose to pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies like hybrid vehicles, clean diesel engines, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles.

    In conjunction with the United States, Canada is also announcing Light Duty Vehicle GHG-Emissions regulations today. U.S. EPA and NHTSA have worked closely with Environment Canada to ensure a common North American approach. EPA noted that "climate change is the single greatest long-term global environmental challenge." Cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks are responsible for almost 60 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
    Automakers, represented by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance), welcomed the final release of coordinated NHTSA and EPA regulations to reducing automobile fuel use and carbon emissions. On their website they point out that the simple relationship between GHG emissions and fuel economy is that burning 1 gallon of gasoline releases 19.4 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. Dave McCurdy, President & CEO of the Alliance said, "America needs a roadmap to reduced dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gases, and only the federal government can play this role. Today, the federal government has laid out a course of action through 2016, and now we need to work on 2017 and beyond."
    The Alliance indicated that automakers are already achieving milestones. In 2010, nearly 200 models are on sale that achieve 30 miles per gallon or greater on the highway, almost a 50% increase over last year. They said as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a speech at the Washington DC Auto Show in January, "2009 marked the fifth straight year we've seen increases in the average fuel economy for cars and light trucks." This final rule will ensure that this trend continues. The Alliance represents  11 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

    McCurdy said, "A year ago, the auto industry faced a regulatory maze resulting from multiple sets of inconsistent fuel economy/greenhouse gas standards. NHTSA was promulgating new fuel economy standards required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, while EPA was preparing greenhouse gas standards under the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, California and 13 other states were planning their own state-specific greenhouse gas standards. When our engineers struggle with changing or conflicting laws, it derails efforts to introduce new technologies with long-term research and development timeframes. The national program announced today makes sense for consumers, for government policymakers and for automakers."

    The Alliance said, "The ongoing existence of a national program for motor vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for all future model years should be the shared goal of not only the current Administration and the industry, but also Congress and the States, for the benefit of the environment, the public, and the ability of the industry to create and maintain high quality jobs."

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release and Roland Hwang, Transportation Program Director said, "These national emission standards represent a consensus among the state and federal governments, the automakers, the environmental community, and labor unions on effective action under the Clean Air Act to curb dangerous global warming pollution.
    "By completing these rules, the Obama Administration is putting our country on the road to creating thousands of clean energy jobs and cutting our dangerous dependency on oil. We look forward to working with the automakers, the unions, the administration, and the states on future standards that will ensure that the United States remains a leader in clean car technologies."

    Access a release from EPA and DOT (click here). Access a release from the Alliance (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access complete information on the joint final rule and link to a prepublication copy of the 837-page regulation, fact sheet, technical support documents, and extensive related information (click here).