The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today jointly proposed a rule establishing what they called “an historic national program” that would improve vehicle fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases.
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 proposal includes miles per gallon requirements under NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) program and the first national emissions standards under EPA’s greenhouse gas program. Earlier, EPA said that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health.
Since the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the tailpipes of new vehicles is the natural by-product of the combustion of fuel, the increased standards would also address climate change by reducing tailpipe emissions of CO2. Those emissions represent 97 % of the total greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.
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), according to the administration.
An initial analysis indicates that none of the special interest groups spreading money around Washington got all that they wanted. However, several questions remain about the granting of wavers to producers of luxury vehicles for the rich, among others, that will be debated as the rulemaking process continues into next spring.
Another area of debate is the controversial estimate from NHTSA and EPA — that U.S. consumers who purchase their vehicle outright would save enough in lower fuel costs over the first three years to offset the increases in vehicle costs. This remains to be demonstrated.
Some industry estimates put the average increase in vehicle price at more than $3,000, which means recovery could take decades, depending on the price of fuel and the improvement in economy.