Video: New fuel standards

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    >>> april begins now.

    >>> good evening. doesn't it always seem to happen this way? we were told today oil prices are suddenly up to 18-month highs. that means gas prices will rise just in time for the warm weather driving season. just yesterday, president obama talked about balancing our need for new energy, things like offshore drilling with the environment, and tonight there's news about new cars. requirements that they run cleaner that, they get ten more miles per gallon than they do right now, and like all things, this comes with a cost. nbc's lee cowan starts us off tonight from l.a. lee, good evening.

    >> reporter: well, brian, this ends debate that lasted nearly a decade about auto pollution that started right here on the roads of california. now that these so-called clean car standards are going to be mandatory across the board, it makes it the first time ever the federal government limited greenhouse gas emissions . it was 1975 when the government first put fuel economy standards in place, back when cars looked like land boats and got 13 miles to the gallon.

    >> you get more power.

    >> reporter: technology made cars a lot less thirsty, but the average auto's appetite is too much for the white house . so by 2014 , the government will mandate cars and light trucks bump their average up to over 35 miles a gallon. it's projected over the lifetime of those newly-regulated vehicles, carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 960 million metric tons.

    >> that's like taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year.

    >> reporter: environmentalists are hailing the move as nothing short of historic.

    >> this is sort of the first time that the united states government has stepped forward to take the biggest single step forward to solve global warming .

    >> reporter: reaching that new efficiency level does come with a price. an estimated $52 billion for car manufacturers to be paid eventually by the consumer. about $1,000 per car may be added on to the sticker price.

    >> we are a car culture . we love vehicles. we like them to be new and we like them to be clean, and we think we can have both.

    >> reporter: california intended to be the first to regulate greenhouse auto emissions in 2002 . 13 other states and the district of columbia wanted to do the same, but the debate was endless. automakers went to court over the costs, effectively blocking the state standards from ever taking effect. so what finally cleared the air?

    >> one is that they are actually closer to these numbers because of modern technology than they have in the past, and two, because i think politically it's just not wise right now to disregard fuel economy as a consideration.

    >> reporter: new standards, new pressures and a new road ahead. now brian, although these new cars will cost a little bit more, the government says that will be more than offset by your savings in fuel, about $3,000 over the course of that new environmentally-friendly vehicle.

    >> lee cowan over of one of l.a.'s famous freeways. thank you for that.

By
updated 4/1/2010 7:24:32 PM ET 2010-04-01T23:24:32

Drivers will have to pay more for cars and trucks, but they'll save at the pump under tough new federal rules aimed at boosting mileage, cutting emissions and hastening the next generation of fuel-stingy hybrids and electric cars.

The new standards, announced Thursday, call for a 35.5 miles-per-gallon average within six years, up nearly 10 mpg from now.

By setting national standards for fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes, the government hopes to squeeze out more miles per gallon whether you buy a tiny Smart fortwo micro car, a rugged Dodge Ram pickup truck or something in between.

The rules will cost consumers an estimated $434 extra per vehicle in the 2012 model year and $926 per vehicle by 2016, the government said. But the heads of the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency said car owners would save more than $3,000 over the lives of their vehicles through better gas mileage.

Slideshow: Empire State of mind

Touting the plan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "Putting more fuel-efficient cars on the road isn't just the right thing to do for our environment, it's also a great way for Americans to save a lot of money at the pump."

The requirements for the 2012-2016 model years pleased environmentalists who have criticized sluggish efforts by previous administrations to boost fuel efficiency. They also were welcomed by automakers who have been seeking a single standard after California and a dozen states tried to create their own rules.

Dave McCurdy, a former Oklahoma congressman who leads the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing 11 automakers, said the industry supported the single national standard for future vehicles. He said the program made "sense for consumers, for government policymakers and for automakers."

Not all dealers were pleased. Ed Tonkin, a Portland, Ore., car dealer who chairs the National Automobile Dealers Association, said the rules were the "most expensive fuel economy mandates in history" and would turn many new cars and trucks into luxury items for consumers.

"Under these new mandates, the price of new cars and light trucks will rise significantly, meaning fewer Americans will be able to buy the new vehicles of their choice," Tonkin said.

Environmental groups said the changes would actually give consumers more choices because they would ensure that every new car would get slightly more fuel-efficient each year.

"Because of these standards, Americans will drive vehicles that save them money at the pump, cut the country's oil dependence and produce a lot less global warming pollution," said Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program.

The regulations set a goal of achieving by 2016 the equivalent of 35.5 miles per gallon combined for cars and trucks, an increase of nearly 10 mpg over current standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The figure could actually be as low as 34.1 mpg because automakers can receive credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in other ways, including preventing the leaking of coolant from air conditioners.

The changes will cost the auto industry about $52 billion, but the government says the program will provide $240 billion in savings to consumers, mostly through lower fuel consumption. The changes also could help U.S. manufacturers who produce advanced vehicles, batteries and engines, the government said.

The EPA is setting a tailpipe emissions standard of 250 grams (8.75 ounces) of carbon dioxide per mile for vehicles sold in 2016, equal to what would be emitted by vehicles meeting the mileage standard. This represents the EPA's first rules ever on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, following a 2007 Supreme Court decision.

Each auto company will have a different fuel-efficiency target, based on its mix of vehicles. Automakers that build more small cars will have a higher target than car companies that manufacture a broad range of cars and trucks. For example, passenger cars built by General Motors Co. will need to hit a target of 32.7 mpg in 2012 and increase to 36.9 mpg by 2016. Honda Motor Co., meanwhile, will need to reach passenger car targets of 33.8 mpg in 2012 and ramp up to 38.3 mpg in 2016.

Some small-volume auto companies such as Porsche, Aston Martin and Lamborghini will not have to meet the standards initially, but all automakers will need to comply by 2017.

Consumers can expect improvements to engines, transmissions and tires, and the use of start-stop technology that halts the engine at stop lights to save fuel. Automakers are expanding their portfolio of gas-electric hybrid vehicles and beginning to introduce electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

Nissan recently announced pricing for its electric car, the Leaf, which will be available in limited numbers later this year. Toyota is launching plug-in hybrids along with battery-powered cars running solely on electricity starting in model-year 2012.

In Michigan, the first version of the Chevrolet Volt, which can go 40 miles on battery power before an engine kicks in to generate power, rolled off the assembly line this week and is scheduled to be sold in limited numbers later this year.

Beyond electric cars, Ford is aggressively promoting its "EcoBoost" line of direct-injection turbocharged engines, which provide a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency. General Motors will begin assembling the Chevrolet Cruze, a replacement for the Cobalt, in Ohio later this summer. The compact Cruze is expected to achieve about 40 mpg on the highway thanks to a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine.

"All the automakers are doing what we're calling 'downsize and boost.' You take the engine, you make it smaller, you boost it, you put a turbocharger, a supercharger on it, and you get the same kind of results with better fuel economy," said Aaron Bragman, an auto industry analyst with IHS Global Insight in Troy, Mich.

LaHood and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the new requirements will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. The new standards move up goals set in a 2007 energy law, which required the auto industry to meet a 35 mpg average by 2020.

EPA and the Transportation Department said the requirements would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated, or the equivalent of taking 50 million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.

Environmental groups have sought curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for global warming, and they challenged the Bush administration for blocking a waiver request from California to pursue more stringent air pollution rules than required by the federal government. The request was granted by the Obama administration last year.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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