Fuel efficiency standards

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Feds Likely to Catch Up to California on Fuel Economy Standards

The EPA is pushing new nationwide fuel economy standards that would bring the nation up to California’s strict standards.

Spencer Platt/Getty

Consumer groups say the EPA's proposed fuel economy standard will mean you'll pay less at the pump.

At a public hearing in San Francisco today a diverse group of stakeholders lined up to support the EPA’s proposal to increase the fuel efficiency standard for cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon. As we’ve reported here, the rule would affect models between 2017 and 2025 and will likely be adopted by the end of the summer.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) worked closely with the EPA to develop the standard and testified that if the rule can be finalized as proposed, California will be willing to accept the national standard. CARB has been taking heat for this collaboration from Orange County Congressional Representative Darrell Issa, who has accused the state of meddling in national regulatory affairs.

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California Truckers React to New Fuel Standards

Craig Miller

The trade group for California’s truckers says it welcomes the new federal fuel standards for big rigs — for the most part, anyway.

Yesterday President Obama announced that all heavy duty vehicles must get up to 20 percent better mileage by 2014.  This marks the first ever federal fuel efficiency rules for heavy trucks and buses.

Michael Shaw of the California Trucking Association said he welcomes the standards but wants equal focus on improving vehicle reliability.

“We want reliability considered as important as fuel efficiency because, ultimately, if a vehicle is running more efficiently, but it’s spending more time in the shop… then you may have to purchase a new truck.” said Shaw. “So are we really getting the benefit we’re expected to get?”

Shaw says these rules may also increase costs for truckers. Continue reading

What Shade of Green is Your Ride?

New Car Labels Emphasize Emissions and Savings

Coming to a showroom near you: a new fuel economy sticker for an electric vehicle. (Photo: Lauren Sommer)

Buy a gas guzzler and you might discover a new form of “sticker shock.”

Cars and trucks sitting on dealership lots will soon have a new fuel economy sticker in the window. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency released newly-designed labels that emphasize environmental performance for conventional and electric cars.

The label might seem familiar to California drivers. In 2008, the state released its own environmental impact sticker for new cars. It rates a car’s smog and greenhouse gas emissions on a scale of one to ten.

The new national label follows California’s lead and incorporates the same rating system. But for the first time, it will also display the annual fuel cost for a vehicle, comparing it to an average vehicle over five years. Continue reading

New Tailpipe Regs are an “Alternate Reality”

Amy Standen specializes in science and environmental reporting for Quest. She’s among the guests today on KQED’s Forum program. Listen to the archived program here.

Hazy day in L.A. Photo: Craig Miller

Hazy day in L.A. Photo: Craig Miller

Yesterday afternoon, as I started working on my news spot about the new federal standard for tailpipe emissions, I dug up my notes from over a year ago, the last time I covered this story in any depth.

The contrast in tone between then and now amazed me. Back then, I was describing accusations of outright lying, government actions that California enviros called “completely illegal,” and California officials “sharpening their knives” as they marched into battle with EPA former Administrator Stephen Johnson. It was September, 2007, and Democratic lawmakers, led by Henry Waxman (D-CA), were accusing the White House of strong-arming the EPA into denying California its “waiver,” or permission to regulate auto tailpipe emissions. The mood between California environmentalists, many of the state’s elected officials, and the Bush administration couldn’t have been more hostile.

Today, it’s as if we’ve landed in an alternate reality.  Not only has California been given its more fuel-efficient cars, but those same laws are taking effect nationwide. The new rules actually exceed anything that California–traditionally the most ambitious state in the union, when it comes to greenhouse gas regulation–could have asked for.

Instead of knives being sharpened, California enviros are singing the praises of “an historic blueprint to carry out rigorous greenhouse gas emission standards,” to quote one email I received today. Another group told the New York Times: “This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions.” Compared to the fall of ’07–actually make that since ’05, when California first asked for the waiver and the EPA first started stalling–it’s like night and day.

Still, listening in to the White House background press briefing on Monday afternoon, you could hear the seeds of criticism taking root in a few reporters’ questions.

Sure, American automakers will be making more fuel-efficient cars, one reporter asked, but what is the White House doing to encourage consumers to buy them? (in addition to restricting tailpipe emissions, the new rules also substantially increase fuel efficiency standards for manufacturers’ fleets–SUVs and trucks will still be available; they’ll be more fuel efficient than before, but less efficient than smaller cars.) The question takes on new relevance as the federal government finds itself a major stockholder in auto companies.

President Obama says the new regs will have the equivalent impact of taking 177 million cars off the road.