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Obama Clean Car Standards Deliver Massive Oil Savings

May 19, 2009 - Union 0f Concerned Scientists

The White House today released details of a plan to develop groundbreaking regulations that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) to work together to dramatically reduce heat-trapping emissions from the nation's cars and trucks.

Analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) indicates that, compared to staying at today's fuel economy and heat-trapping emissions levels, implementing the standard outlined in the plan would:

  • curb U.S. oil dependence by about 1.4 million barrels of oil per day by 2020, nearly as much as we currently import from Saudi Arabia.
  • cut heat-trapping emissions by 230 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, equivalent to taking 34 million of today's cars and light trucks off the road that year.
  • deliver net savings to consumers of $30 billion in 2020, even after covering the cost of technology improvements, based on a gas price of $2.25 per gallon.
  • deliver $70 billion in net savings in 2020 if gas prices spike to $4 per gallon again.

"When candidate Obama went to Detroit, he told the automakers what they needed to hear—they had been making bad choices, and as president, he would steer a new course and revitalize the industry by bringing more fuel efficient vehicles to market," said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS's Clean Vehicles Program. "Now President Obama is delivering on his promise to strengthen the auto industry, while reducing vehicle pollution and our dependence on oil."

Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer with the program, said automakers can use off-the-shelf technology, including cleaner engines, more efficient transmissions, better air conditioning systems and cleaner fuels, to meet the standards. "This agreement is the breakthrough the nation needs to cut carbon emissions and help consumers deal with volatile gas prices," Kliesch said. "Automakers have the technology they need to meet and beat these standards while saving consumers billions."

David Friedman, the program's research director, said the proposal was a long time in the making. "This is an historic day for clean cars in America," he said. "President Obama has brokered a major agreement by working with states, EPA, DOT, the auto industry and environmental leaders. These first ever national global warming standards for cars and trucks will help revolutionize the auto industry. Everyone involved deserves credit for making history."

The announcement also protects state authority and paves the way for automakers to drop their litigation against state standards. "Without aggressive action from California and so many other states during the years when political will was absent from Washington, the plan announced today would not have been possible," said Eli Hopson, Washington representative for the program.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.


Updated: 2003/07/28