Friday, September 25, 2009

How the new fuel efficiency standards will affect us

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“This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.”

That’s what Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign said back in May about the Obama administration’s plans to raise fuel efficiency requirements for motor vehicles progressively over the next several years.

You could, of course, call this damning with faint praise. However, this is a strong step in the right direction that will hopefully be followed up with further environmental sustainability legislation and a strong international agreement in Copenhagen.

On September 15, the details of this plan were filled in. The plan incorporates fuel efficiency requirements in both miles per gallon (mpg) and carbon emissions terms. The mpg increase will be about 5% annually, culminating in a fleet-wide average of 35.5 mpg for 2016.

The carbon dioxide limit will reach an average of 250 grams per mile by 2016. These standards will begin to take effect for the 2012 model year.

The administration has made it clear that financial considerations have been taken into account. They estimate that these requirements will add $1,300 to the initial price of a car by 2016, but that the payback period from the savings on gas will be less than 3 years and come to $2,800 over the life of the vehicle.

The White House also estimates that over the four years of efficiency standard increases a total of 950 million metric tons of CO2 will be prevented from entering the atmosphere.

After hearing the details of the plan Daniel Becker stuck behind his original statement:

“Keeping President Obama’s promise, today’s proposed clean car rule is the biggest single step the US has taken to curb global warming and our oil addiction. It demonstrates to the world that the United States is now confronting the threat of global warming. It shows that we can use the Clean Air Act and other existing laws to tackle the pollution spewing from vehicles and power plants.

Controlling global warming pollution is auto mechanics, not rocket science. All automakers have the advanced technologies — engines, transmissions, high strength, lightweight materials and aerodynamics — to safely achieve this new standard and to go beyond it.

The devil is in the details. Detroit’s lobbyists have done their best to riddle this decision with credits and other loopholes. We urge the Administration to close these loopholes or implement an automatic backstop to ensure that the president’s promise of 35.5 mpg average vehicles in 2016 will be kept.”

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