Obama pushes tougher fuel standards for US cars

Obama called for the adoption of first-ever greenhouse-gas pollution limits and fuel-efficiency standards for heavy trucks, starting in 2014. He also ordered his Transportation Department and environmental agency to develop new standards for cars and small trucks starting in 2017.

Obama last year reached a landmark agreement with carmakers to raise efficiency in the model years 2012-2016. Those new standards were finalized last month and will raise fuel economy in the US from a current 11.6 kilometres per litre to an average 15.1 kilometres per litre by 2016.

Trucks consume more than 2 million barrels of oil a day, according to the White House, and average only 6.1 miles per gallon. They also are responsible for 20 percent of the transportation industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama said his directive not only will reduce pollution, but it also “will bring down costs for transporting goods, serving businesses and consumers alike.”

The president also called for higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks beginning in 2017, beyond the higher standards issued a month ago for 2012 through 2016 models.

Giving these directives now will help the auto industry, truckers, and consumers because it provides certainty as to where fuel-efficiency standards are going, according to the White House. This will promote advanced vehicle technology, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and all electric vehicles, Obama said.

“This sends a clear message to our innovators, entrepreneurs, and auto manufacturers that this county is committed to leading the way through 2016 and beyond,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

The president also directed the Department of Energy to provide increased support for deployment on electric vehicles and other advanced vehicle technologies.

Automakers, who worked with the Obama administration to develop the higher fuel standards for 2012 through 2016 also collaborated on the administration’s latest step.

"The federal government is looking 15 years down the road and uniting all the diverse stakeholders to work towards the same national goal," said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "By starting this process, we are clearing a single path to 2025. We’ve come a long way policy wise in a short time. A year ago, automakers faced a regulatory maze resulting from multiple sets of inconsistent fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards."

McCurdy’s view was echoed by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, whose members account for 40 percent of all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S.

“Today’s commitment creates a path to greater future progress,” said Michael Stanton, the association’s president and CEO. The lead time provided automakers will enable them “to design and build the type of advanced technology vehicles needed while continuing to provide consumers with a full range of vehicle choices,” he said.

That lead time is important not only for auto manufacturers, but the energy industry and consumers as well, McCurdy said.

“Energy providers need time to expand availability of low-carbon fuels and their infrastructure,” he said. "And introducing new technologies and fuels to consumers takes time to get up to speed. So we need to start now."

The trucking industry also supports higher fuel-efficiency standards. The American Trucking Association is more concerned about the climate-change bill introduced by Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator Joe Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, which they said would increase the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel by forcing refiners to purchase billions of dollars in carbon allowances.

"I’m proposing we start developing right now a new and higher standard to take effect beginning 2017 so that we can make more and more progress in the years to come," Obama said in a speech from the White House Rose Garden.

Barack Obama Delivers Remarks On Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

Through the directive I’m signing, we’re also going to work with public and private sectors to develop the advanced infrastructure that will be necessary for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, and we’re going to continue to work to diversify our fuel mix, including biofuels, natural gas and other cleaner sources of energy.

I believe that it’s possible in the next 20 years for vehicles to use half the fuel and produce half the pollution that they do today. But that’s only going to happen if we are willing to do what’s necessary for the sake of our economy, our security and our environment.

Today’s announcement is an essential part of our energy strategy, but it’s not a substitute for other necessary steps to ensure our leadership in a new clean energy economy.

I’m heartened by the good work that’s been done by Senator Kerry and Lieberman on a comprehensive energy and climate bill to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to prevent the worse consequences of climate change, and foster the millions of new jobs that are possible if we rise to this challenge.

And this follows the passage of comprehensive legislation through the House last June.

So as I’ve said before, I intend to work with members of both parties to pass a bill this year. In the meantime, I’m going to take every…

In the meantime, I’m going to take every sensible and responsible action that I can use — that I can using my authority as president to move our country in the right direction. That’s what we’ve done today. That’s what we’re going to continue to do in the days, weeks and months ahead.

So thank you very much for being here everybody, and I’m going to now sign this memorandum.