The proposed National Program for reducing the CO2 emissions and increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks hinged on the U.S. EPA officially determining that greenhouse gases (GHG) pose a threat to public health and welfare. On Dec. 7, the agency announced just such an official determination, as well as a finding that motor vehicles contribute to the GHG problem.
“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the U.S. government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
Meanwhile, the EPA and NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) continue work on a federal regulation, backed by the automotive industry, to impose stiff fuel-economy requirements—and for the first time, a GHG mandate—on automakers. That regulation was officially proposed in September and was predicated on EPA finding GHG a public threat. The regulation is expected to be finalized next year. The EPA earlier this year had made a tentative finding of public threat, then held a series of hearings, solicited public comment, and conducted more research before affirming the reality of the threat Dec. 7. More than 380,000 comments were received during development of the final findings, according to the EPA.
The National Program proposal must be finalized by March 31, so CAFE regulations are in place the required 18 months prior to MY2012 vehicles beginning production (as required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act).
The National Program covers MY2012 through 2016. The corporate average fuel economy figure for MY2016 is set at 35.5 mpg, although it could be as low as 34.1 mpg if the automakers take advantage of certain credits that will be available for improvements in air-conditioning systems and for sales of flex-fuel vehicles. Each model will fall into a specific footprint, each of which has its own minimum standards for each model year.
The current CAFE overall industry standard for MY2010 is 25.3 mpg. For MY2011, the standard will be 27.3 mpg. There are no GHG mandates for MY2010 and 2011. A fuel-economy figure of 27.3 mpg equates to 326 g/mi CO2.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants.
On-road vehicles contribute more than 23% of total U.S. GHG emissions, according to the EPA, which says the proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million t and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of MY2012-2016 vehicles.