Yesterday the Obama administration set forth new national standards for fuel efficiency in cars and light trucks. The big news is a goal of a 35.5 mpg combined standard (which could be as low as 34.1 per automaker because of certain credits) by 2016, up around 10 mpg from the current one. Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will be cut by about 30 percent from 2012 to 2016.
Each carmaker will have a different target, based on its vehicle mix. The more small cars a company builds, the higher the target. Specialty companies like Porsche and Lamborghini get extra time to conform.
And, yes, your vehicle is going to cost more—as much as $926 more in 2016. But administration officials claim the average car owner will save about $3,000 in fuel costs over the life of the car.
Putting it in a wider frame of reference,
The rule estimates the cost of compliance for the industry at $52 billion over the five years of the program and calculates benefits at $240 billion. Those benefits include fuel savings, pollution reduction and reduced oil imports.
Others were quick to point out the downside of the new regulations: higher-cost cars mean fewer buyers; better mileage may encourage more driving, hence more pollution and accidents; reaction among car dealers was mixed. One editorial suggests that the new rules could paralyze the economy.
And there’s the continuing debate over how to credit so-called zero-emissions vehicles in meeting a company’s goal. The new regs put a cap of 200,000 per maker on these EVs (before the regs apply), so as to generate “some responsibility for the CO2 created while producing the electricity to charge them.” Automakers want no limits, claiming the utilities aren’t under their control and shouldn’t be. But there are ancillary emissions associated with EVs, and it’s hard to ignore them.
The good thing, most would agree, is that finally, after thirty-plus years, there will be a national standard that puts an end to the foot-dragging and denial of the auto industry—and the shifting and complex rule changes of the regulators.
The Canadians have adopted the U.S. standard and indicate that the next target of both Washington and Ottawa will be standards for large trucks and commercial vehicles, the heavy-duty polluters.
States like New Jersey with big air pollution problems welcomed the rules. California is patting itself on the back for setting the pattern on regulation. Carmakers, at least on the public record, are for it:
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three, Toyota Motor Corp. and seven others, praised the announcement. But it wants the government to start working on the rules for 2017 and beyond.
Now that is a good idea.
So what’s your reaction to all this? Will people drive more, buy fewer cars, save money, spend money, reduce pollution? How will the new regs affect you?