The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration increased average fuel economy requirements for cars and
light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 in a final
rule released Aug. 28.
The rule sets combined greenhouse gas emissions and corporate average fuel
economy requirements for model year 2017 through 2025 cars and light-duty
trucks, nearly doubling the existing fuel efficiency requirements.
“Between this new rule and the administration's previously issued standards,
the average car's fuel economy will nearly double by 2025, rising to 54.5 mpg,”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters. “This will cut oil
consumption by 12 billion barrels and save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at
EPA set an average carbon dioxide limit of 163 grams per mile by 2025, which
would equate to 54.5 miles per gallon if emissions are reduced primarily through
fuel economy improvements. EPA set separate standards for cars and trucks,
increasing the emissions standards for trucks at a slower rate.
Additionally, NHTSA plans to require automobile manufacturers to achieve a
fleetwide average of 41 mpg in 2021.
The administration projects the fuel efficiency standards will increase to
between 48.7 mpg and 49.7 mpg in 2025. Those standards will not take effect
until NHTSA completes an additional planned review prior to the 2022 model year.
That review will be subject to a separate notice and comment period.
EPA and NHTSA jointly proposed the rule in December (76 Fed. Reg. 74,854; 231
DEN A-16, 12/1/11).
The agencies in 2010 issued a rule to increase the greenhouse gas and fuel
economy standards for cars and light trucks from a combined 25 mpg to 35.5 mpg
by model year 2016, an increase of 40 percent (75 Fed. Reg. 25,324).
The rule will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal
Register. The rule amends 40 C.F.R. Parts 85, 86, and 600 and 49 C.F.R.
Parts 523, 531, 533, 536, and 537.
EPA and NHTSA estimate the rule will increase the average price of a vehicle
by $1,800 in 2025. However, consumers would save an estimated $5,700 to $7,400
in gasoline over the life of the vehicle.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters the rule is a “critically
important part of protecting our consumers from prices spikes in fuel.”
The rule will save 4 billion barrels of oil and reduce greenhouse gas
emissions by 2 billion metric tons.
As part of its greenhouse gas emissions standards, EPA will allow automobile
manufacturers to use emissions credits they accrued as part of the model year
2012 through 2016 standards to meet the latest requirements. Manufacturers also
will receive credits for improvements to air conditioning systems that reduce
greenhouse gas emissions.
The credit program also includes incentives for manufacturers to produce more
electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and
hybridized full-size pickup trucks.
The Obama administration negotiated the fuel economy standards with
automakers, unions, California, and environmental groups as part of a push to
set a single, national program for vehicle emissions.
“It's not every century that the auto industry and the environmental movement
agree on anything, but everyone on the spectrum from G.M. to environmentalists
supports these rules,” Daniel Becker, director of the Center for Auto Safety's
Safe Climate Campaign, said in a statement. “Under these rules, the auto
industry can build cleaner, safer cars for Americans and a competitive future
United Autoworkers President Bob King said in a statement that the standards
“provide certainty for manufacturers in planning their investments and creating
jobs in the auto industry as they add more fuel-saving technology to their
Although environmental groups largely praised the rule, the Center for
Biological Diversity said the standards are not stringent enough to keep up with
China and Japan, which are moving more aggressively to improve fuel efficiency.
The flexibility and credits built into the rule effectively lower the mandated
fuel efficiency, Vera Pardee, an attorney at the Center for Biological
Diversity, told BNA Aug. 28.
“When you think about flexibility, the 54.5 rule is really a fictitious
number,” she said. “The standard should be stronger. When you subtract the
flexibility and credits already given, the standard is really closer to 47 mpg.
The flexibility isn't getting us where we need to go. These rules need to be
The rule also creates incentives for carmakers to build larger vehicles
because they are subject to less stringent emissions standards, Pardee said. The
more stringent standards for smaller cars will increase their retail prices,
narrowing the price difference between them and larger vehicles, she said. That
could actually lead more consumers to buy heavier, less efficient vehicles, she
“What we need to do is get the most reductions as quickly as possible,”
Although automobile manufacturers and unions both supported EPA and NHTSA's
regulations, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell
Issa (R-Calif.) accused the Obama administration of “strong-arming”
manufacturers into accepting the rules.
“The administration drafted these standards in secret, strong-arming
automakers and short-circuiting the deliberative regulatory process to achieve a
purely political result, abandoning sound science and objectivity to appease its
political allies in the extreme environmentalist lobby,” he said in a
Issa criticized the standards in an Aug. 10 report,
saying the rule would increase vehicle costs, limit consumer choice, and
compromise safety. The report also criticized the role environmental groups and
the California Air Resources Board played in negotiating the vehicle standards
(155 DEN A-4, 8/13/12).
EPA had given California two Clean Air Act waivers that would have allowed it
to set its own greenhouse gas emissions standards. Automobile manufacturers said
they favor the single national standard rather than a patchwork of state
“The Auto Alliance has called for a single, national program because
conflicting requirements from several regulatory bodies raise costs, ultimately
taking money out of consumers' pockets and hurting sales,” the Alliance of
Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement. “We all want to get more
fuel-efficient autos on our roads, and a single, national program with a strong
midterm review helps us get closer to that shared goal.”
By Andrew Childers
EPA and NHTSA's final fuel economy rule is available at http://www.epa.gov/oms/climate/documents/2017-2025-ghg-cafe-standards-frm.pdf.