President Obama on Tuesday announced an initiative that for the first time places vehicle carbon dioxide (C02) emissions under federal control and mandates the most aggressive increase in vehicle fuel efficiency in U.S. history.
Oil Independence: Under Obama’s plan, fuel efficiency standards for all new passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. must be at least 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 – an increase of 10 miles per gallon over today’s minimum standard. The plan advances by four years the fuel economy standards set by Congress in 2007 and is hoped to result in an overall savings of 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
Addressing Climate Change: In addition, the plan requires a total reduction in vehicle carbon dioxide (C02) emissions -- believed to be a key contributor to global warming – of more than 900 million metric tons, or about 30-perctent by 2016. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will, for the first time, be given the power to regulate vehicle C02 emissions.
”For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America,” stated President Obama in announcing his plan.
How We Got Here: Obama’s plan may also succeed in bringing a settlement to the feud between the federal government, state governments and automakers over fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions that has been raging for four decades.
- In 1975, Congress gave the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the authority to set vehicle mileage standards.
- In 2002, the State of California enacted its own law regulating both vehicle fuel economy and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
- In 2004, automakers – demanding a consistent, nationwide standard for fuel efficiency -- sued California in federal court, contending that only the federal government could set vehicle mileage standards.
- In April 2007, the US Supreme Court declared C02 a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and ruled that C02 emissions should thus be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- In December 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act requiring automakers to increase fuel economy by at least to 35 mpg -- thereby reducing CO2 by at least 30 percent by 2020. President Obama’s plan advances that goal to 2016.
- In December 2007, the EPA denied a request from California for a waiver from the federal Clean Air Act allowing the state to implement its own, more stringent CO2 reduction program. As a result, California and 17 other states filed suits against the EPA
- In January 2009, President Obama ordered the EPA to review its waiver decision.
- In March 2009,the NHTSA raised fuel efficiency standards for cars to 30.2 mpg and to 27.3 mpg for minivans, SUV’s and light trucks.
- In April 2009, the EPA confirmed that C02 emissions pose a threat to human health and welfare and should be regulated by federal law. During the same month, the House of Representatives initiated hearings on climate change legislation.