By Janet McCabe and Dr. Mark Rosekind, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
In 2010, the Obama Administration took a historic step to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and decrease carbon pollution by putting in place fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2012 through 2016. A second round of standards finalized in 2012, expanded the program through Model Year 2025. These standards – what we call the National Program – are already making a big impact: reducing carbon pollution from the atmosphere while saving consumers money at the pump.
The auto industry has responded to the program with continual innovation – showing that a common sense approach to regulation that provides lots of flexibility can help drive American ingenuity. We are seeing fuel efficiency technologies enter the market faster than nearly anyone anticipated. In fact, auto manufacturers over-complied with the standards for each of the first three years of the National Program. All of this has taken place during a period of record vehicle sales.
The National Program reaches out nearly a decade into the future – to 2025. When the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) developed the program, we agreed to do a “mid-term evaluation” to assess the standards for the 2022-2025 model years (MY). We said back in 2012 that the mid-term evaluation would be a rigorous assessment of these standards, and would look at the best available data on emission control and fuel economy-improving technologies, costs, market developments, and other factors.
Today, we took the first step in that process. EPA, DOT, and California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) jointly put out an in-depth draft Technical Assessment Report (TAR). This comprehensive and robust report, informed by extensive stakeholder outreach and substantial technical work by the three agencies over the past several years, will inform EPA’s future determination on whether the standards are appropriate for MY 2022-2025 and NHTSA’s future rulemaking for those years. The report itself is not a rulemaking or decision document and does not change any of the existing legal requirements under the existing National Program—but it shows how much progress has already been made.
Here are some highlights:
Automakers are innovating in a time of record sales and fuel economy levels. We are seeing technologies that reduce emissions and improve fuel economy entering the fleet at faster rates than originally expected. These technologies include turbo charging, engine downsizing, more sophisticated transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, aerodynamics and idle stop-start, along with improved accessories and air conditioning systems. Vehicle sales are strong (six straight years of increasing sales through 2015 for the first time since the 1920s, leading to an all-time high in 2015), and the auto firms overall are over-complying with the standards. Every single vehicle category, from subcompacts to pickup trucks, offers cleaner choices for consumers.
Manufacturers can meet the standards at similar or even a lower cost than we had anticipated in the 2012 rulemaking. Automakers have a wide range of technology pathways to choose from, but the TAR shows that manufacturers can meet the current standards for MY 2022-2025 primarily with conventional gasoline vehicles that use internal combustion engines with well-understood technologies. This finding is consistent with what the National Academy of Sciences found in a comprehensive 2015 study.
Many manufacturers are meeting future standards with today’s vehicles. There are many vehicles – from many manufacturers – meeting future standards several years ahead of schedule. In fact, there are over 100 car, SUV and pick-up truck versions on the market today that already meet 2020 or later standards.
The National Program is designed to enable consumers to choose the vehicle they want, from compact cars to larger trucks suitable for carrying and towing heavy loads, while helping owners enjoy improved fuel economy with a reduced environmental footprint. Rather than setting a single fuel economy target number for all vehicles, the National Program establishes separate standards for passenger cars and light trucks, with standards for trucks being generally less stringent than the standards for cars. This approach protects consumer choice, and at the same time, it improves efficiency and emissions for all types of vehicles. Even with lower than expected gas prices, which has resulted in a shift in consumer choice, the draft report shows that the standards mean more fuel efficient options no matter type or size vehicles consumers choose to buy.
Today’s report demonstrates that the program is working – reducing oil consumption and protecting the environment while saving consumers money. We are taking comment on the report and look forward to hearing from all interested stakeholders.
More information on the midterm evaluation, including the new report, can be found at https://www3.epa.gov/otaq/climate/mte.htm and http://www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.