Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Half-True
Obama
"After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas."

Barack Obama on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 in a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

President Barack Obama says he raised fuel standards after '30 years of inaction'

President Barack Obama claimed a record of accomplishment as he accepted the Democratic nomination to run for a second term — including a victory on one issue he said hadn’t been touched in three decades.

"After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas," he told delegates to the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6, 2012.

We rated Obama’s original presidential campaign pledge to raise fuel economy standards a Promise Kept.

But we wondered, was it true that "after 30 years of inaction," fuel standards will double for cars and trucks by 2025?

That might be news to President George W. Bush.

What Obama did

In August 2011, the Obama administration issued new federal fuel economy rules that set an average fuel efficiency goal of 54.5 miles per gallon for the 2025 model year.

That’s nearly twice the 27.6 miles per gallon standard for 2011, for cars and for trucks.

So far, so good.

But we paused at Obama’s claim that his administration took action "after 30 years of inaction."

Mileage standards in the United States have been in place since the 1970s Arab oil embargo.

Back then, Congress passed the Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975, which boosted the fuel economy of cars and light trucks. "Corporate average fuel economy," or CAFE, standards reached 27.5 miles per gallon in 1985 — then hovered there.

Obama’s speech might have left you thinking nothing else happened until his administration took charge.

But in 2007, Bush signed the Energy Independence and Securities Act, which required "substantial, continuing increases in fuel economy standards," according to a helpful history lesson at auto information site Edmunds.com.

Bush noted at his signing ceremony that the law marked the first statutory increase in fuel economy standards since they were enacted — something he had asked for.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then speaker of the House, remarked on the historic nature of the bipartisan legislation, writing that its auto efficiency reforms were "the first in more than 30 years."

And that law laid the groundwork for Obama’s rule changes.

Bush’s administration left for Obama’s the job of finalizing standards, something it hadn’t yet done "because of the uncertainty gripping car companies," Reuters reported.

"A lot of what Obama's doing is really extending what President Bush started," Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman for Edmunds.com, told PolitiFact in January.

That’s not what Obama’s sweeping oversimplification suggested.

The president also said that "by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas." That’s what the new rules require. Edmunds.com reports that "regulators, environmentalists and most automakers agree that existing technologies can be used to achieve this plan's goals." There’s just debate about their cost. While automakers have so far met boosted standards by updating traditional engines, Anwyl says those relatively inexpensive gains won't carry companies through lofty goals set for 2025.

Still, 13 automakers in August announced support for the new standards, signaling they believe they’ll be able to achieve the gains.

Our ruling

Obama said, "After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas." The Obama administration launched new fuel efficiency standards that significantly raise the bar for automakers over the next decade.

But the rules, which raise standards from their 1985 levels, grew from a bipartisan law requested and signed by Bush. We’ll give Obama credit for pushing for a long-term agreement with aggressive goals and working with automakers who say they’ll get it done. But he’s on shakier ground when he gives the impression his administration was solely responsible. We rate his claim Half True.