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Federal goal is 47 to 62 mpg for cars by 2025

Proposals draw cheers from environmentalists and condemnation from the auto industry.

October 01, 2010|Neela Banerjee, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The  Obama Administration took new steps Friday toward fuel standards that would require cars to get 47 to 62 miles per gallon by the year 2025, a move that supports states with aggressive timetables for reducing auto emissions

The announcement, which the Environmental Protection Agency described as "scenarios," not guidelines, was aimed at limiting the emission of greenhouse gases that many scientists say contribute to global warming. The new steps follow up on rules the federal government adopted in April that would increase average fuel economy of cars to 34 mpg by 2016.

The action by the EPA and Transportation Department begins a long rule-making process. If enacted, the proposals would narrow the gap between federal and state approaches to fuel economy, creating more uniform standards for carmakers, auto parts suppliers, green technology firms and oil companies.

Environmental groups hailed the action as affirming California's trendsetting approach to controlling greenhouse emissions. In a statement on its website, the California Air Resources Board said it applauds the federal government's efforts.

Auto industry representatives condemned them, saying they could raise prices and penalize consumers.

Final rules are scheduled to be issued at the end of July 2012.

The United States is second behind China in greenhouse gas emissions, with the vast American vehicle fleet accounting for a sizable portion. For years, under Democratic and Republican administrations, the domestic auto industry blocked efforts to increase fuel economy standards in Congress by arguing that they would drive up American car prices, making them less competitive.

But in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA could regulate new-vehicle emissions without congressional approval as part of its legal mandate to control greenhouse gas emissions and curb air pollution.

Working with the California board, the Obama administration developed scenarios to decrease greenhouse emissions from cars by 3% to 6% annually starting in 2017.

In terms of fuel economy, that would mean new cars would have to get on average 47 to 62 mpg by 2025. The agencies estimated that such improvements would add about $800 to $3,500 to the cost of a car but that owners would reap "lifetime savings due to reduced fuel costs of about $5,000 to over $7,000."

Car industry representatives vigorously dispute such estimates, contending that the calculations the Obama administration made were based on faulty assumptions about costs of technology and manufacturing.

"Less than five months ago, the administration issued the most expensive fuel economy mandates ever, estimated to cost industry and consumers over $50 billion," the National Automobile Dealers Assn. said in a statement.

"Now, before the ink has barely dried on those as yet unimplemented rules, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California have decided to launch a new and far more costly set of fuel economy mandates that would require light-duty cars and trucks to achieve up to 62 mpg on average by 2025."

nbanerjee@tribune.com

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