Feds Float Future Fuel Efficiency Plan

Photo: Craig Miller

If, fifteen years from now, new cars across the country are getting twice the miles per gallon that they do today, California can rightly claim some of the credit.

On Friday the Obama Administration released plans for improving fuel efficiency in cars and light trucks for model years 2017 through 2025, with a final standard somewhere between 47 and 62 miles per gallon. The move builds on the new federal fuel standard, based on California’s, for model years 2012 through 2016.

California is scheduled to adopt its own fuel efficiency standards for 2017-2025 vehicles in January, said California Air Resources Board (CARB) member Dan Sperling, which is well before federal agencies expect to set a national standard.   CARB staff will release the proposed state standard later this year, he said.

“Presumably what California does will have a strong impact on what the U.S. EPA decides,” said Sperling, adding that there is a “a lot” of communication between the state and federal agencies.

In May, when President Obama directed the US EPA and Department of Transportation to assess potential options and create a plan for extending the federal standard into years 2017-2025, he requested that they coordinate with the California Air Resources Board in doing so.

UC Berkeley professor and new Green Energy “Czar” for the World Bank, Dan Kammen, said California can take “a lot” of credit for federal action on fuel efficiency.

“California has played a major role by being one step ahead,” he said.

Friday’s announcement, technically a “Notice of Intent,” included assessments of four different scenarios (PDF), looking at annual improvements ranging from three-to-six percent.  The assessments attempt to gauge potential effects on the auto industry and employment, and were conducted by the Environmental  Protection Agency and the National Highway and Transportation Authority in collaboration with CARB.  The agencies say they plan on releasing an updated analysis by the end of November, and aim to propose actual standards within a year.

The advocacy group Environment California said in a statement that a fuel efficiency average of at least 60 miles per gallon by 2025 would cut oil use in the state by 5.3 billion gallons in 2030, saving Californians $13.4 billion at the pump.

In a post on the New York Times “Green” blog, Matthew L.Wald explores some questions raised by a future national fuel efficiency standard, such as how electric cars will affect the mix.