The president walks down a ramp after delivering a speech at a gathering… (Manuel Balce Ceneta /AP…)
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced fuel economy standards Tuesday that would require car makers to almost double the average gas mileage for passenger vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The final rules mark the latest step in a lengthy campaign by the administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption and are the highest fuel efficiency standards in U.S. history.
With an eye to the looming presidential election, the White House touted the standards as a boost for middle-class consumers. "These fuel standards represent the single most important step we've ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," President Obama said.
But the Romney campaign was quick to condemn the rules as impractical and harmful. "Gov. Romney opposes the extreme standards that President Obama has imposed, which will limit the choices available to American families," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
While automobile manufacturers welcomed the new rules, auto dealers decried them. The dealers association contends that the 2025 rules would drive up the average vehicle sticker price by $3,000. The administration says that at most, it could be as high as $1,800 and would likely be offset by $8,000 in gas savings over the lifetime of the vehicle.
The fuel economy rules would reduce the price of gasoline by about $1 per gallon, the administration estimated. They would also cut oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025, helping to curtail U.S. reliance on foreign oil.
Environmentalists welcomed the rules as the single biggest step any country had taken to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, which scientists say are the biggest contributor to climate change.
The rules will probably take effect before the end of the year.
Automakers support the standards because they can move manufacturing plans forward with certainty. A midterm review is set for April 2018 in case the rules prove too onerous or expensive.
"We all want to get more fuel-efficient autos on our roads," said Gloria Bergquist of Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry lobbying group. "And a single, national program with a strong midterm review helps us get closer to that shared goal."