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For Immediate Release, September 15, 2009

Contact:  Vera Pardee, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 317 (office),

Historic Step Toward Cleaner Energy:
Obama Administration to Regulate Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Raise Gas-mileage Standards

WASHINGTON The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency today teamed up to announce details of the first national plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars, light-duty trucks, and SUVs. Together, these vehicles are responsible for almost 60 percent of all U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EPA, the rule would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 950 million metric tons and save some 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the covered vehicles (when compared to a business-as-usual approach).

“The proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles under the Clean Air Act is a historic step in the fight to curb global warming,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Clean Air Act is our strongest and most successful tool for reducing air pollution and will now be put to work, together with our fuel-economy law, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect the air we breathe, and save consumers money.” 

The proposal is the first time greenhouse gas emissions will be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and it will have a significant impact in slowing the rise of American emissions. But the proposed standards will still leave the United States far behind the vehicle standards already achieved by other countries – standards that are needed to avert dangerous, runaway global warming.

The proposed rule also increases national gas-mileage standards for these vehicles by about 5 percent per year, with the standard reaching 35.5 mpg for model year 2016, ahead of the existing deadline to achieve 35 mpg by 2020. Despite the increase, the administration’s proposal even for 2016 fails to accomplish what the European Union, Japan, and China are achieving today, at approximately 43.3, 42.6 mpg, and 35.8 mpg respectively. Until the standards are further strengthened, the battered U.S. auto industry will likely lag behind its international rivals.

In November 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity, other nonprofit organizations, and more than a dozen states won a landmark court victory overturning the Bush administration’s fuel-economy standards for model years 2008-2011, in part because of the administration’s failure to consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from the regulated vehicles. New but still inadequate standards for model year 2011 were proposed by the Bush administration and finalized under President Barack Obama, then once again challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity in court in April, 2009.

“While today’s proposal can and should be strengthened, we hope that it marks a turning point away from the fundamentally flawed approach to fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions used in the past, toward the rapid progress we can and must achieve to reduce greenhouse pollution and slow global warming,” said Pardee.

Figure 1: Fuel Economy by Country/Region. Source: Actual and Projected Fuel Economy for New Passenger Vehicles by Country/Region, 2002-2020, ICCT (May, 2009); Bush proposal for 2011-2015 and the Obama proposals for 2011-2016 have been added to the ICCT graphic.

Proposed Rule: EPA and DOT Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Economy Standards for Vehicles

Further information from the agencies is available at:

Read about the Center’s Climate Law Institute and its campaign to curb global warming pollution from transportation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 225,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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