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Fuel Economy Increases for Fourth Straight Year

EPA's latest trend report shows drivers seeking efficiency.

by on Nov.23, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency is reporting an increase in fuel efficiency, along with a corresponding decrease in average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for new cars and light duty trucks.

In an annual report just issued, “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2009,” EPA is including data for CO2 emissions for the first time.

For 2008, the last year for which EPA has final data from automakers, the average fuel economy was 21 miles per gallon (mpg). This positive trend began in 2005 and reversed a long period of decreasing fuel economy and increasing CO2 emissions from 1987 through 2004, as automakers successfully thwarted attempts to raise fuel efficiency requirements.

The report says, at 21 mpg, this returns CO2 emissions and fuel economy to levels of the early 1980s.

On September 15, of this year EPA proposed the first-ever light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards under the Clean Air Act for model years 2012-2016. These proposed standards are part of a new, “harmonized” National Policy that also includes proposed corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for the same years by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Since 1975, overall new light-duty vehicle CO2 emissions have moved through four phases:

  1. A rapid decrease from 1975 through 1981;
  2. A slower decrease until reaching a valley in 1987;
  3. A gradual increase until 2004; and
  4. A decrease for the four years beginning in 2005.