President Obama Takes Biggest Single Step to Move America Beyond Oil

Guest post by Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign

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Today, the Obama administration took a step that will result in significant savings at the pump for American families, reduce life-threatening carbon pollution, and provide Americans with better and more fuel efficient vehicle choices moving forward.

The administration officially proposed strengthening fuel efficiency and pollution standards for passenger cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The newly proposed standards also reduce carbon emissions to 163 grams per mile in 2025.

Today’s announcement also builds on a historic step taken last year to raise vehicle efficiency to 35.5 mpg in 2016 and begin reducing tailpipe carbon pollution levels.

Together, these historic standards will:

You can download the graphic at the top with all this information right here.

We applaud these steps toward moving our nation beyond oil. These are great moves by the Obama Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act in order to protect public health as well.

Americans have spoken – they overwhelmingly support strong car standards. More than 74% of Americans support a fuel efficiency standard of at least 60 mpg by 2025 according to a poll conducted by the Mellman Group.  A majority of Americans are also willing to pay more up front for fuel saving technology that will save money over time. 

The auto industry is on our side as well: thirteen major auto manufacturers have signed letters of commitment in support of the new standards. One major reason they support the standards is because it’s a fleet-wide average, not a one-size-fits-all number. The standards require vehicles to improve relative to their size, meaning automakers will be improving all vehicles and consumers will have a full range of choices from highly efficient cars to improved, but less efficient trucks.

And 108 House Representatives also support the new standards, having all signed a letter to the President saying as much:

The framework agreement brought together automotive manufacturers, labor, the environmental community, and government agencies.  Industry groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers praised the agreement as a ‘positive step.’  As a result, automakers will enjoy regulatory certainty, which will help them design and build the advanced technology vehicles of the future and compete in an increasingly global marketplace. The agreement protects American jobs and consumers, and as such was a remarkable achievement.

Two important points, though, as we applaud these standards from the Obama administration:

1. Loopholes and Industry Giveaways Matter— The strength of the final standards will determine whether we get all of the benefits promised.  Loopholes, credits and flexibilities can undermine the stringency of vehicle standards. For example, we strongly support electric vehicles, but treating too many EVs as having no emissions (ignoring the carbon pollution from electricity) can erode pollution reductions. It is critical that these standards maintain their integrity in order to deliver consumer savings and cut our addiction to oil.

2. 54.5mpg Isn’t Actually What Consumers Will See On Dealer Lots in 2025— Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) use an arcane set of 1970’s test procedures to set standards and measure compliance.  These tests assume drivers will average 48 mph on the highway, drive in perfect 75 degree weather, and never turn on their A/C.  Therefore, the cars that consumers buy at the dealership in 2025 will actually average between 37-40 mpg, which is still nearly double today’s window sticker average of 22.5 mpg.

The Obama administration will finalize the standards next summer. In the meantime, we will push for strong final standards with no loopholes. Americans deserve better cars that go farther on a tank of gas and spew less pollution into the air. Let’s finalize standards that will save consumers money, create jobs, and move our nation beyond oil.

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