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April 1, 2010
12:59 PM

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New Vehicle Standards an Historic Step in Regulating Greenhouse Emissions

Yet United States Still Lags Behind China, Japan, and E.U. in Fuel Economy

WASHINGTON - April 1 - The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency today finalized national regulations of greenhouse gas emissions from cars, light-duty trucks, and SUVs. The standards, an important and historic step, are a significant improvement on the status quo yet still leave the United States far behind other countries in fuel economy.

"Reducing greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act is an historic step in the fight to curb global warming. The Clean Air Act is our strongest and most successful tool for reducing air pollution and will now be put to work, together with our fuel-economy law, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect the air we breathe, and save consumers money," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "This rule demonstrates what we've said for years: The Clean Air Act works and, if fully implemented, has the power to quickly, efficiently avoid the worst effects of global warming." 

According to the EPA, today's combined rule will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 960 million metric tons and save some 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the covered vehicles. The new rule, which covers more than 60 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, will increase national gas-mileage standards for covered vehicles by about 5 percent per year, with the standard reaching 35.5 mpg for model year 2016, ahead of the existing deadline to achieve 35 mpg by 2020. 

"Despite the increase, the rule will leave the United States far behind the fuel efficiency that European and Japanese cars achieve today, at close to 44 mpg and 43 mpg respectively. Until U.S. standards are improved as our laws require, the battered U.S. auto industry will continue to lag behind its international rivals," added Suckling.

In November 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity, other nonprofit organizations, and more than a dozen states won a landmark court victory overturning the Bush administration's fuel-economy standards for model years 2008-2011, in part because of the administration's failure to consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from the regulated vehicles.

While today's announcement regulates mobile sources, earlier this week the EPA announced a further delay of legally required greenhouse pollution controls for smokestacks. 

"This historic rulemaking should have also triggered Clean Air Act protections from emissions from stationary sources, such as coal-fired power plants. EPA's decision this week to delay vital greenhouse gas pollution controls for stationary sources undermines today's decision on vehicle emissions. The Clean Air Act should be used in its entirety as soon as possible, before it's too late," said Suckling.

Figure 1: Fuel Economy by Country/Region. Source: Actual and Projected Fuel Economy for New Passenger Vehicles by Country/Region, 2002-2020, ICCT (December 2000 Update); Bush proposal for 2011-2015 and the Obama final standards for 2011 and 2012-2016 have been added to the ICCT graphic.

Fuel Economy Standards


Final Rule

Read about the Center's Climate Law Institute and its campaign to curb global warming pollution from transportation.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.


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