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Molly Moorhead
By Molly Moorhead February 14, 2013

Obama says fuel efficiency has doubled

President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address that the country’s progress toward energy independence can be measured in miles per gallon.

"Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we're finally poised to control our own energy future," he said. "We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar, with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it."

A lot of energy claims are packed in that statement. Here, we’ll examine whether we’ve "doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas."

We reached out to the White House asking for backup to this claim but did not receive any. But back in 2011, the EPA announced a plan, in partnership with a dozen automakers, to increase average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks. (That figure represents a combined city/highway rating as tested in a lab. In real-world driving, the EPA estimates drivers would average closer to 43 mpg.)

Is that for cars coming off the assembly line now? Not hardly. The 54.5 mpg benchmark is the goal for model year 2025 vehicles.

Fuel efficiency is gradually increasing on the way to the 2025 goal. When he took office in 2009, federal standards called for an average rating of 27.5 mpg. For 2013 vehicles, the standard is 30.5 mpg. In 2016, it rises to 34.1.

So comparing fuel efficiency in 2009 and now, there’s an increase of 11 percent -- not nearly double.

Our ruling

Obama said the U.S. has "doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas," which clearly sounds as though cars on the road today are running at twice their earlier fuel efficiency. But he was comparing a real number with a projected one, a standard for vehicles manufactured more than a decade from now.

The statement was misleading and more importantly untrue. We rate it False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

PolitiFact, "President Barack Obama says he raised fuel standards after '30 years of inaction,'" Sept. 10, 2012

New York Times, "Obama Reveals Details of Gas Mileage Rules," July 29, 2011

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Obama Administration Finalizes Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standards, Aug. 28, 2012
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "CAFE - Fuel Economy," accessed Feb. 13, 2013

Congressional Research Service, "Automobile and Light Truck Fuel Economy: The CAFE Standards," January 2007, "FAQ: New Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards," Nov. 10, 2011

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "CAFE - Fuel Economy," accessed Feb. 13, 2013, "FactChecking Obama’s SOTU," Feb. 13, 2013

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