Times may be tough for the automakers, with Chrysler in bankruptcy and GM also in dire straits, but President Obama is not letting them off the hook when it comes to fuel economy standards. In fact, today he will announce a dramatic emissions reduction plan to be implemented over the next seven years and essentially transform the automotive landscape.
The new rules, according to a White House official briefing reporters, will require vehicles (including trucks and SUVs) to achieve 35.5 MPG on average by 2016. The average for cars will be 39 MPG, while the average for light trucks will be 30 MPG. The White House estimates that the new regulations, along with those passed in 2007 by the Bush administration, will raise the price of a car roughly $1,700 USD.
The official stated, "You can continue to buy whatever cars you want. All cars get cleaner."
The planned reductions are similar to California's emissions plan; in fact, California has agreed to go along with the federal government and not pursue its own fuel economy standard. The plan aims to cut down on anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists believe are a major cause of global warming. The Obama administration says that the plan will cut emissions by 30 percent by 2016.
Officials say that the move will also protect national security, by reducing the national oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels between 2011 and 2016. That represents a five percent dip from the current rate of U.S. consumption -- 7.1 billion barrels a year. Since much of America's oil comes from politically unstable regions such as the Middle East or Venezuela, this is a significant advance in protecting national security interests.
David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center, cheered the move, stating, "Everybody wins. It's going to cut carbon pollution. The drivers of these cars are going to save money at the pump. It's going to cut our national oil dependence ... [and] if you're going to prosper as a carmaker, when the economy recovers, you have to be making these clean, high-mileage vehicles."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.), a strong proponent of stricter standards, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.) will be on hand as President Barack Obama announces the new standards.
The new emissions are expected to dramatically alter automotive output. Most manufacturers say they will have to cut down on SUV and large vehicle production to meet the standard. Where a trip to a car dealership today features a walk through rows of SUVs and trucks, by 2016, these vehicles will likely be replaced by more sedans, hatchbacks, crossovers, and hybrid vehicles.
However, some opposed the new standards, like Myron Ebell, an energy expert with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an oil industry and automotive lobby. She states, "We think these new mandatory fuel standards are most unfortunate. They will price people out of larger vehicles and force them into smaller vehicles. Smaller cars may use less fuel, but they don't meet the needs of many people and studies show they are less safe."
Former Bush administration officials, though, largely praise the move. Says one former EPA official, Jeff Holmstead, "It looks like the Obama administration is agreeing with the Bush administration that there needs to be a national standard and that it doesn't make any sense to have multiple state standards."