EPA, DOT and California Want Higher Light Vehicle Fuel Economy Rules in Place by September. Jobs Are at Stake

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The three agencies have completed an interim technology assessment - controversial because it is not peer reviewed and contains assumptions that critics call ludicrous, such as claiming further vehicle weight reduction is free.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California today announced a timeframe for proposing what will no doubt be increased fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas standards for model year 2017-2025 cars and light-duty trucks.

Higher fuel economy standards remain controversial. One study from the respected Center for Automotive Research at the University of Michigan succinctly concluded that the higher the new standards, the lower industry employment and the worse the air quality since consumers will hold onto vehicles even longer as the result of prices increases ranging in the thousands of dollars per vehicle.    

With today’s announcement, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is committing to continue its collaboration with DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA in an effort to establish fuel economy standards that “will provide manufacturers with the regulatory certainty needed to invest today in the kind of new technologies that will provide consumers a full range of efficient clean vehicle choices,” EPA said in a statement.

The timing of the today’s announcement could also be deliberate, foreshadowing a call for higher fuel taxes tomorrow by President Obama during his State of the Union address.

According to EPA, proposing the new standards by September 1, 2011 – means a “continued collaboration,” which could lead to an extension of the current National Clean Car Program that stipulates the equivalent of an average of 35.5 miles per gallon for light-duty cars and trucks by model year 2016 or a combined average emissions level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile This is an EPA testing average which is roughly 25% higher than the window sticker on new vehicles.

In April 2010, DOT and EPA established greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for model year 2012-2016 light-duty cars and trucks.  In the fall of 2010, California accepted compliance with these federal GHG standards as meeting similar state standards as adopted in 2004, resulting what has become the first coordinated national program.

“Today’s announcement is a big step forward, but it is only the beginning.  By working together with EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop standards for the next generation of clean cars, we can set a standard that works for automakers across the country,” said DOT Secretary LaHood.

“Our continued collaboration is win-win-win for the environment, businesses and the American consumer,” LaHood claimed.

“President Obama’s invitation last year to join with the federal agencies to develop new emission and fuel economy standards has resulted in a model of government cooperation to address the important issues of global climate change and urban pollution,” said Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

Last May, President Obama announced that EPA, DOT and California would begin working together to assess the performance and costs of a variety of technologies that could be available in model years 2017-2025 as the first step in possibly extending the current national emission and fuel economy standards.

The three agencies have completed an interim technology assessment – also controversial because it is not peer reviewed and contains assumptions that critics call ludicrous, such as claiming further vehicle weight reduction is free.

Before today’s announcement, CARB announced its intention to propose greenhouse gas emission standards for model years 2017 to 2025 in March of this year, while EPA and NHTSA were working on an end of September timeline for proposal.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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