WASHINGTON - Joined by an uncommon alliance of auto executives, union leaders and environmental activists, President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a national program to cut new vehicle carbon emissions and raise mileage by 30 percent, while also reducing oil needs and changing the kinds of cars Americans buy.
"This gathering is all the more extraordinary for what these diverse groups — despite disparate interests and previous disagreements — have worked together to achieve," Obama said at a White House ceremony. "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."
"The status quo is no longer acceptable," he added. "We have done little to increase fuel efficiency of America's cars and trucks for decades."
Obama said the program would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil "over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century."
The new requirement is estimated to cost consumers an extra $1,300 per vehicle starting in 2016, but drivers will be saving at the pump. Obama estimated that a typical driver would save $2,800 over the lifetime of a car.
Moreover, the increased miles per gallon should cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 900 million tons, the equivalent to shutting down 194 coal plants, a senior administration official said Monday.
35.5 mpg fleet average planned
While the 30 percent increase translates to a 35.5 mpg average for both cars and light trucks, the percentage increase in cars would be greater, rising from the current 27.5 mpg standard to 39 mpg starting in 2016. The average for light trucks would rise from 24 mpg to 30 mpg.
For 2009 car models, the industry has actually averaged 32.6 mpg, well above the existing 27.5 mpg standard.
As the graph above shows, there has been a recent uptick in fuel efficiency, largely due to the rising demand for said efficiency in response to the rising fuel prices.