Emissions Standards

This is wonderful:

“The Obama administration today plans to propose tough standards for tailpipe emissions from new automobiles, establishing the first nationwide regulation for greenhouse gases.

It will also raise fuel efficiency targets to 35.5 miles per gallon for new passenger vehicles and light trucks by 2016, four years earlier than required under the 2007 energy bill, sources close to the administration said. (…)

The deal has been under negotiation since the first days of the administration. It represents a compromise among the White House; the state of California; and the auto industry, which has long sought national mileage standards and has waged an expensive legal battle against the California waiver. The industry will get its national standard, but at the price of one that approximates California’s targets. Industry officials said they would drop all related lawsuits.”

According to the Post, one of the factors pushing the auto companies to make a deal was the prospect of having their CO2 emissions regulated by the EPA. The deal involves both mileage and tailpipe standards, which the Post describes as roughly equivalent. The state of California, for its part, gets national standards that are almost as stringent as the ones it has tried to set for itself.

Grist adds (quoting a “senior administration official”):

“Another significant change in the new standards is that the new standards will include tougher standards for each class size of vehicles, as well as a higher average across each company’s fleet, according to the official. The previous rules covered only the fleet average, which meant that companies could offset a giant SUV with some more fuel efficient models.

“This has the effect of preserving consumer choice,” said the official. “You can continue to buy whatever size car you like, all cars get cleaner.””

This will raise the cost of cars. The Washington Post estimates that today’s rules will add $600 to the price of an average car, though it’s not clear to me whether this figure is for price increases between now and 2016 or for some other time frame. But I think it’s well worth it. For one thing, we badly need to reduce our dependence on oil for the sake of the climate. Grist’s “senior official” again:

“The official also estimated that this emissions reductions from the CAFE increase will equate to taking 177 million cars off the road, or shutting down 194 coal-fired power plants.”

That’s a lot of CO2 not being emitted.

For another, if you expect the price of oil to spike again once the world economy revives and to (more or less) stay high as the world’s oil supplies dwindle, then it makes sense to take steps to ensure that the transition to more expensive gasoline is as gradual and painless as possible. Getting a good start on more fuel-efficient cars will help a lot.

Good move.

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