California played key role in national fuel rules

California’s love affair with the car has actually paid off – for the nation.

Major changes in fuel efficiency in the U.S. are on the horizon, in part because of programs that have been pushed in California. The state has been working with federal officials for years on the new rules.

These regulations would establish new requirements for all cars and trucks sold in the U.S. for model years 2017 to 2025. By 2025, cars will have to run at 54.5 miles per gallon and greenhouse gas emissions will need to be reduced to 163 grams per mile. Currently, cars and trucks have an average fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon.

“This agreement on fuel standards represents the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” President Obama said on July 29.

The new regulations would also save an estimated 12 billion barrels of oil and decrease oil consumption in the U.S. by 2.2 million barrels a day by the years 2025. The ultimate goal is to reduce dependence on oil imports, which will be cut by a third by 2025.

This change in fuel economy is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 6 billion metric tons and will reduce the levels of air pollutants such as smog, soot and toxins.

There will also be benefits to the consumer as a result of these changes. Overall, it is estimated that consumers will save $1.7 trillion in the cost of fuel over the lifetime of their vehicles.

These new regulations represent a long sought-after compromise between environmentalists and the major car manufacturers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. While environmental groups originally wanted fuel efficiency requirements to reach 62 miles per gallon, automotive manufacturers insisted that the number would have to be much less to maintain cost effectiveness.

“There was some early opposition by the manufacturers centering around the issue of cost,” Stanley Young of the Air Resources Board said. “They didn’t think they would be able to do it. The auto alliance went so far as to begin broadcasting radio ads attacking the proposed regulations.”

However, according to Young, the manufacturers eventually came around and accepted the standards.

The state of California also played a critical role in creating the fuel efficiency regulations, working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to come up with a national plan.

California is the only state with the authority to make its own air-quality regulations.

“President Obama’s bold action today marks a major advance towards a more sustainable environment and less oil-dependent economy,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “California led the way, and all Californians can be proud the President Obama adopted our state’s forward-thinking policy as a model for the nation.”

According to Young, the Air Resources board has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the past two years to determine these regulations.

“California was a full partner in the development of the program,” Young said, giving credit to the state for the toughness of the regulations, despite opposition from car manufacturers concerned about the cost of increasing the miles per gallon a car averages.

To meet these fuel efficiency requirements, car manufacturers will have to use a variety of technological advances.

“These proposed standards can be met using well-known technologies such as better engines, lower-cost hybrids and electric cars,” Roland Hwang, transportation director of the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a press release. “The Environmental Protection Agency, the Transportation Department and California are committed to review progress in several years, and we will keep working for stronger standards that cut more pollution and save consumers even more money.

The president’s current deadline for the official regulations will be on September 28. After this, there will be a period of public comment and the final rules for fuel efficiency are expected to be established by July of next year.

California is currently developing its own version of the regulation to match up with the federal requirements. These regulations likely will be crafted by the end of September and put into law by the spring or summer of next year.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: