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By Catharine Richert April 5, 2010

It's official

In May 2009, President Barack Obama announced that he was going to increase car and truck fuel economy.

Nearly a year later, the new standard has officially been put on the books.

On the campaign trail, Obama said he would boost vehicle efficiency by 4 percent annually. But in May of last year, he said fuel efficiency will increase by an average of 5 percent a year.

The joint rule between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized April 1, 2010 will require cars and light trucks combined to get an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, moving up a 2007 law that required the same efficiency by 2020. The mandate applies to all new autos made between 2012 and 2016.

According to the administration, the effort will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program and cut carbon emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles.

The effort was hailed by environmental organizations.

"These standards deliver a trifecta of benefits to Americans: less dependence on Middle Eastern oil, less pollution, and more savings at the gas pump," said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.

Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke wrote on the organization's blog that the standards are "precisely the kind of clean energy solution we need right now."

Last May, we did not move Obama's pledge to Promise Kept because a lot can change between the time the government proposes a rule and when it actually puts the rule on the books. But now that it's official -- and because he's exceeding his original promise -- we can move this promise to Promise Kept.

Editor's Note: Originally, Obama's promise to raise fuel economy standards was paired with a promise to give $50 billion to car manufacturing companies to retool their production facilities. Because the two promises have little to do with each other, we've separated them. We'll keep you updated on Obama's other promise.

Our Sources

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT, EPA Set Aggressive National Standards for Fuel Economy and First Ever Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels For Passenger Cars and Light Trucks, April 1, 2010

The Washington Post, White House mandates new fuel efficiency standards, by Juliet Eilperin, April 1, 2010

The Detroit Free Press, U.S. unveils 35.5-m.p.g. rule by '16, by Justin Hyde, April 1, 2010

The White House, President Obama Announces National Fuel Efficiency Policy, May 19, 2009

Environmental Defense Fund, EPA Adopts First National Greenhouse Gas Pollution Standards in U.S. History, April 1, 2010

Natural Resources Defense Council, EPA's New Clean Car Standards: The Right Kind of Energy Solution, by Frances Beinecke, April 1, 2010

E-mail Interview, Pamela Campos, attorney, Environmental Defense Fund

By Catharine Richert May 20, 2009

Exceeding the goal on fuel economy

With the backing of environmentalists and the auto industry, President Barack Obama is meeting and even exceeding his pledge to increase fuel efficiency standards. It's a promise we have already rated as In the Works, but Obama's May 19, 2009, announcement that he will increase car and truck fuel economy to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon merited an update.

On the campaign trail, Obama said he would boost vehicle efficiency by 4 percent annually. Now he says fuel efficiency will increase by an average of 5 percent a year. By 2016, cars and trucks will be 40 percent more efficient than today's vehicles, according to the plan. His proposal surpasses the law passed by Congress in 2007, which requires an average fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and builds on Obama's earlier order to increase fuel standards for 2011 car models.

More efficient cars mean reductions in greenhouse gases — about 900 million metric tons, according to the White House.

Striking the deal required a little political gymnastics on behalf of the administration. (After all, when was the last time the auto industry and environmentalists agreed on anything?) The proposal has support from California, where officials have been pressing the federal government to allow stricter state rules. California's effort was backed by environmentalists as well as the District of Columbia and 13 other states that agreed to adopt California's plan. The auto industry had an incentive to go along because it would have been faced with disparate state-by-state standards, plus federal fuel economy guidelines.

Obama has effectively ended the debate by establishing a national benchmark: States and environmentalists get their stricter fuel economy rules, and the auto industry will be required to meet only one standard.

Nevertheless, putting Obama's plan on the books will take some time. The proposal must work its way through the rulemaking channels at both the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, and that can sometimes be a lengthy process. Until that is done, we'll continue to rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan January 27, 2009

Obama executive orders boost fuel standards

On Jan. 26, 2009, President Obama issued two executive orders concerning fuel standards.

In one order, he initiated steps to allow California to set its own standards for auto emissions that are stricter than those of the federal government. Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to review a Bush administration decision that denied California a waiver to continue setting the stricter guidelines. Generally speaking, tougher emissions standards translate to higher gas mileage.

In the other order, he fast-tracked the process to apply new fuel standards to 2011 car models. The law states that the rules must be in place 18 months before the model release; Obama instructed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to "take all measures" consistent with the law to get the new rules on the books by March 30, 2009.

His ultimate goal is a fleetwide average of at least 35 miles per gallon by model year 2020. The current average for cars and light trucks combined is about 25 miles per gallon.

These two orders move Obama's promise to In the Works.

Our Sources

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