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September 22, 2009 7:00 AM, EDT

DOT, EPA Propose National Standards for Fuel Efficiency, Greenhouse Gasses

By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Sept. 21 print edition of Transport Topics.

The Obama administration last week issued its proposed new fuel efficiency and first-ever national greenhouse gases reduction standards for passenger cars and light trucks.

Making good on a promise made earlier this year, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint proposed rule calling for new passenger cars and light trucks to achieve 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 250 grams per mile.

While the proposed 1,227-page rule sets CO2 and corporate average fuel economy standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans, it does not include heavy trucks.

However, DOT and EPA currently are examining the fuel efficiency of heavy trucks to determine the appropriate test procedures and methodologies for measuring their fuel efficiency, as well as the appropriate metric for measuring and expressing their fuel-efficiency performance and the range of factors that affect their fuel efficiency, the rule said.

“Work on developing these standards is ongoing,” the rule said.

“Yesterday’s announcement has no effect on trucks,” said Clayton Boyce, a spokesman for American Trucking Associations.

Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, said the new fuel-efficiency standards will reduce oil consumption by an estimated 1.8 billion gallons between 2012 and 2016 and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the output of 42 million cars.

The new standards would save consumers more than $3,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a 2016 model vehicle, Jackson said.

The regulations will now go through a 60-day public comment period before a final rule can be issued.

Auto manufacturers have supported the new rule because it will allow them to build a single national fleet that complies with the requirements of federal programs and the standards of California and other states.

In a Sept. 15 statement, Michael Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers called the new national standard “a welcome step.”

Lena Pons, policy analyst, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, called the rule a “historic step forward.”

However, Pons said that under the current proposal, if manufacturers produce a larger percentage of trucks than planned, overall gains will be undermined because the standard for trucks is much weaker.

“Above all, the final rule must contain a ‘backstop’ to ensure that the program’s goals are met even if manufacturers alter their mix of cars and trucks,” Pons said in a Sept. 15 statement.