Clear Car Standards Continue to Save Americans Money, Reduce Air Pollution

September 22, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

(Washington, D.C. – September 22, 2016) America’s Clean Car Standards are continuing to reduce air pollution, limit our dependence on imported oil, and save families money at the gas pump – even as a Congressional hearing puts them back in the spotlight.

Today, two House subcommittees are holding a joint hearing on the economic impacts of the Clean Car Standards, which are projected to raise average fuel economy for American cars to as much as 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) are currently conducting a technical assessment of these historic standards to inform both EPA’s mid-term review of the program and NHTSA’s upcoming rulemaking to finalize requirements for model years 2022 to 2025. 

“America’s Clean Car Standards are already driving us toward a stronger economy and helping us put the brakes on dangerous climate pollution,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund. “We must keep the standards strong, and all Americans must keep working together to protect our environment and our economy.”

In 2012, EPA and NHTSA jointly established national greenhouse gas reduction and fuel efficiency standards for new cars and passenger trucks for model years 2017 to 2025. The overall U.S. Clean Cars program is expected to double the average fuel economy of the nation’s fleet of cars and light trucks. The current standards build from the first phase of standards adopted earlier for model years 2012 to 2016. The historic program won broad support from automakers, the United Auto Workers union, small businesses, consumers, national security groups, economists, and health and environmental groups including EDF

As part of the midterm review process, EPA and NHTSA are now considering feedback from industry and the public on their jointly developed Draft Technical Assessment Report, and will then decide whether to adjust target goals for model year 2022 to 2025 vehicles. The Draft Technical Assessment Report reassesses the availability of technologies needed for compliance with the standards, as well as costs and benefits to consumers and to the auto industry. The agencies found that the industry is already over-complying with the current standards, and that our nation is well on its way to achieving the later year standards through advances in technology at low cost.

Today’s cars and passenger trucks account for about 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption and almost 20 percent of all U.S. climate pollution. According to EPA, if we protect the current strong standards, the nation’s overall Clean Car program will deliver the following benefits:

  • Consumers will save $1.7 trillion at the pump over the life of the program
  • We’ll reduce our oil use by 12 billion barrels over the life of the program
  • By 2025 we’ll see oil savings of two million barrels per day
  • We’ll eliminate six billion metric tons of climate pollution
  • We’ll almost double our fuel economy performance by 2025

The Draft Technical Assessment Report, released jointly by EPA and DOT in July, found that auto manufacturers are adopting fuel economy technologies at unprecedented rates, and have developed technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce pollution that are far more innovative than was anticipated just a few years ago.

The Draft Technical Assessment Report also found:

  • The Clean Car Standards can be met largely with more efficient conventional gasoline powered cars.
  • Manufacturers can meet the standards at similar or even lower costs than what was anticipated in the 2012 rulemaking — with substantial fuel savings payback to consumers.
  • Owners of every type of new vehicle – from compact cars, to SUVs, to larger trucks suitable for towing and carrying heavy loads — will enjoy gasoline savings and improved fuel economy with a reduced environmental footprint.

This progress can  already been seen on car lots. The Ford-150, the most popular passenger truck in the U.S., has models that already meet standards for 2021, as do the Toyota Rav4, Chevy Malibu hybrid and Chevy Cruze. The 2014 Toyota Highlander meets standards for 2020. The Honda Civic and the Scion iA already meet 2023 standards. And the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Spark and Smart ForTwo meet standards for 2025.

The Consumers Union found that fuel savings under the Clean Car Standards are so significant that – even with low gas prices – owners will start to see net cost savings within the first month after buying a new car or truck. Families can expect to save as much as $4,800 in fuel costs over the life of a new car or truck if gas prices stay low – and as much as $8,200 if prices rise to more typical levels. 

A new Ceres report found that, under the current Clean Car Standards, the three major Detroit automakers will be profitable even if gas prices fall as low as $1.80 per gallon. The report also found that automakers could pay a big price if the standards are weakened and then gas prices rise – Detroit could lose more than 300,000 vehicle sales and more than $1 billion in profits.

The significant fuel cost savings has brought broad support for the strong standards from consumers and businesses alike. Major businesses, representing more than $400 billion in annual revenue, sent a letter to the EPA and DOT today voicing strong support for retaining or strengthening the 2025 fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards. Strong majorities of Americans believe increasing fuel efficiency is important (84 percent) and that the government should continue to set standards for higher fuel economy in cars and trucks (70 percent). More than half of all Americans (53 percent) expect to have higher fuel economy with their next vehicle purchase, across nearly every type of vehicle.

You can find more about the Clean Car standards on EDF’s website

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