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April 1, 2010  

New Fuel Economy Standards Are a Historic First Step Toward Energy Independence

Statement of Lena Pons, Policy Analyst, Public Citizen

Today, the Obama administration published its final rule establishing a national program to improve vehicle fuel economy, save consumers money at the pump and slash greenhouse gas emissions. The rule is a historic first step forward.

These standards are the first to regulate greenhouse gases federally under the Clean Air Act, and they will enable us to exceed the mandate set by Congress in 2007 to reach 35.5 miles per gallon by 2020. These standards require cars and light trucks to reach an average of 34.1 miles per gallon in 2016.

President Barack Obama said that his new fuel economy standards will save Americans 1.8 billion barrels of oil, a figure that is equivalent to taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year. By setting these standards, Obama is putting the country on a path toward energy independence, cleaner air and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Today’s standards are proof that Clean Air Act authority to cut greenhouse gases works – and that it is critical to combating climate change. Any climate legislation must not curtail the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) existing authority to set tough standards.

If, in the future, the federal government fails to meet fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards, states should retain the authority to meet the requirements on their own, as stated in the Clean Air Act. In fact, it was because of the work of individual states, particularly California, that the federal government was pushed to establish such standards.

These standards contrast sharply with Obama’s Wednesday announcement to open new offshore areas to oil and natural gas exploration. Drilling takes us in the wrong direction on energy and climate policy by perpetuating our dependence on fossil fuels and jeopardizing the environment. We need the Clean Air Obama to overrule the Drill, Baby, Drill Obama.

Public Citizen will continue to fight for stronger fuel economy standards in the future. But these standards put us on the right track to cut oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.
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