Obama Proposes Auto Standards: More Fuel Economy, Less Pollution

19 May 2009

President Barack Obama at the White House, 18 May 2009
President Barack Obama at the White House, 18 May 2009
President Barack Obama has announced Tuesday the toughest-ever fuel efficiency and emissions standards for vehicles sold in the United States. It is the first U.S. national limit on greenhouse gas emissions.

By the 2016 model year, cars and trucks sold in the U.S. may have to pollute less and use fuel more efficiently than any other vehicles in history.

New standards announced by President Obama would require automakers selling vehicles in the U.S. to achieve an average fuel efficiency of about 15 kilometers per liter [6.6 liters per 100 kilometers] by the 2016 model year. "For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage [fuel efficiency] and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America," he said.

Details of the plan need to be worked out within the U.S. government before it can take effect.

The initiative would raise the cost of the average vehicle by as much as $1,300, but Mr. Obama says drivers would save money in the long term by buying less fuel.

"Consumers pay less for fuel, which means less money going overseas and more money to save or spend here at home. The economy as a whole runs more efficiently by using less oil and producing less pollution. And companies like those here today have new incentives to create the technologies and the jobs that will provide smarter ways to power our vehicles," he said.

The president says his initiative would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of vehicles sold in the next five years, which he says would have the same effect as taking 58 million cars off the road. "Just to give you a sense of magnitude, that is more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya and Nigeria combined," he said.

The plan would end a years-long dispute involving automakers, states and the U.S. government. The agreement gives states the tougher emissions standards they wanted, while giving car companies a single national standard and more time to make the changes.

Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan attended the announcement with Mr. Obama. Granholm has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, when asked, has not denied the possibility that the president would interview her for the position during her visit.