White House Makes Fuel Economy Mandates Official

The White House made official its new fuel economy targets that would require automobile manufacturer’s to boost fuel efficiency for the fleets to 35.5 miles per gallon. The new standards have to be met by 2016, advancing the original agreement four years (from 2020).

From the Washington Post:

The new fuel efficiency standards, issued by the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency as the result of a May 2009 deal with the auto industry, represent a peaceful end to a contentious legal battle over how to regulate tailpipe emissions. At a time when it remains unclear whether Congress can pass climate legislation this year, the new rules also mark the White House’s most significant achievement yet in addressing global warming.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson estimated that the tougher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of vehicles sold under the program covering the 2012-16 model years.

“These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies,” LaHood said. “We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air.”

Fortunately, much of the technology needed to improve fuel efficiency is already in motion. Boosted by record high fuel prices in 2007, automobile companies were aggressively developing more fuel efficient technologies in order to meet the sustained demand for mobility. If gas prices spike again as the world economy picks up steam, the transition to technologies with less reliance on oil will simply quicken anyway.

Unfortunately, regulators will ultimately claim victory when this transition happens regardless of the impact market forces ultimately play in reaching these targets. At the end of the day, meeting the targets depends on consumers buying the cars–which will average $1,000 dollars more than current models.