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Get Ready for New Auto Mileage and Emissions Rules

President Barack Obama put to rest today a long-running feud between the auto industry, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and more than a dozen states over the right to regulate vehicle tailpipe emissions.

The administration just formally announced a new federal vehicle policy that will require fleets to scale up to an average fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. This breaks down to 39 mpg for passenger vehicles and 30 mpg for light trucks.

The new regulations are expected to yield a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and trucks. The EPA estimates automobiles generate about 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

The White House predicts the rules, which were modeled on California’s long-sought standards, will curb emissions by roughly 900 million metric tons and reduce oil consumption by about 1.8 billion barrels between the start of the program in 2012 through 2016.

In 2005, California moved to regulate tailpipe emissions through a special waiver from the EPA under the Clean Air Act. The state had in the past been granted permission to set environmental policies tougher than federal standards more than 100 times because of its air quality issues.

More than a dozen states adopted California’s proposed tailpipe regulations but faced opposition from the Bush Administration and automakers, which claimed competing regulations would create a patchwork of standards. The EPA ultimately denied California’s waiver request, which led to lawsuits. New and less stringent corporate average fuel economy standards were passed in 2007, which would have required fleets to achieve an average of 35 miles per gallon in 2020. President Obama vowed to revisit the decision to deny the waiver when he took office.

"This agreement brings an end to a five-year legal battle,” Calif. Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement. “It means that automakers finally recognize that their future depends on making cleaner and more efficient vehicles."

Members of the auto industry and environmental groups attended today’s announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House.

“The President has succeeded in bringing three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers and many environmental groups to the table," Dave McCurdy, president and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement Monday. "We're all agreeing to work together on a National Program."

Tailpipe image -- CC licensed by Flickr user cosmic_spanner.

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