Plan would hasten better fuel efficiency
Bush administration pushes for vehicle average of 31.6 mpg by '15
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 2:57 AM
By Ken Thomas
WASHINGTON -- The next generation of cars and trucks would need to meet a fleet average of 31.6 miles per gallon by 2015, according to a proposal the Bush administration announced yesterday. The measure seeks more-fuel-efficient vehicles in the face of high gasoline prices and concerns over global warming.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters outlined the plan on Earth Day, setting a schedule that is more aggressive than the auto industry expected. The plan responds to a new energy law that requires new cars and trucks, taken as a collective average, to meet 35 mpg by 2020.
"This proposal is going to help us all breathe a little easier by reducing carbon-dioxide emissions from tailpipes, cutting fuel consumption and making driving a little more affordable," Peters said.
New cars and trucks would have to meet a fleetwide average of 31.6 mpg by 2015, or about a 4.5 percent annual increase from 2011 to 2015. By 2015, passenger cars would need to achieve 35.7 mpg; trucks, 28.6 mpg.
The rules were designed to push companies to boost fuel efficiency across their entire lineup. Manufacturers would have different requirements for cars and trucks of different sizes, based on vehicle sales. Collectively, the fleet of new vehicles would need to meet the rules.
Among individual manufacturers, passenger cars built in 2015 by General Motors would need to average 34.7 mpg; Ford's cars, 35.5 mpg; and Toyota's cars, 34.6 mpg.
For light trucks, GM would need to reach 27.4 mpg by 2015; Ford, 28.8 mpg; and Toyota, 28 mpg.
The plan is expected to save nearly 55 billion gallons of oil and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 521 million metric tons over the life of the new vehicles built between 2011 and 2015. It would add an average cost of $650 per passenger car and $979 per truck by 2015.
Environmental groups and their allies in Congress, who have criticized the Bush administration's handling of the requirements, said they were mostly encouraged by the proposal.
"After years of fighting a fuel-economy increase, the Bush administration is showing faith in the American auto industry's ability to reform," said Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., who sought the higher standards.
Automakers opposed increases to the regulations in previous years but supported a compromise version of the legislation in Congress. The changes would require the industry to implement more than half of the fuel-efficiency requirements by 2015 and push them to build more gas-electric hybrid cars and diesel-powered trucks and sport-utility vehicles.
"Congress has set an aggressive, single, nationwide standard and automakers are prepared to meet that challenge," said Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and others.
In keeping with the new law, however, automakers will continue to receive a 1.2 mpg credit for producing flexible-fuel vehicles that that run on ethanol blends, but the credit will begin phasing out in 2014.
Congress sought the tougher standards last year, arguing that an increase in fuel efficiency would help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and the nation's dependence upon imported oil. The law, which ushers in the first major changes in three decades, requires the nation's fleet of new vehicles to increase its efficiency by 10 mpg from its current average of 25 mpg, or a 40 percent increase.
The fleet of new passenger cars is currently required to meet a 27.5 mpg average; SUVs, pickup trucks and vans must hit a target of 22.5 mpg. Among the current fleet, passenger cars average about 31.3 mpg while light trucks get about 23.1 mpg.