New Gas Mileage Standards Represent Biggest MPG Gain in 30 Years

The Union of Concerned Scientists says the new proposed gas mileage standards will save drivers $26 billion and reduce oil imports by nearly as much as we currently import from Saudi Arabia.

| September 15, 2009

Tailpipe emissions

If finalized, the new vehicle requirements would mark the first national standard placed on heat-trapping emissions from tailpipes.


New proposed vehicle standards announced by the Obama administration today represent the largest increase in fuel economy in three decades, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The new standards, which were released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), would boost the fleetwide fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the United States to 34.1 miles per gallon by model year 2016. The standards also would set the first national tailpipe heat-trapping emissions standard for vehicles at 250 grams per mile — nearly 30 percent less than the emissions produced by today’s average new vehicle.

Following a 60-day public comment period, EPA and DOT are required to finalize the standards by March 31, 2010.

“You have to go back to the days of disco to see a fuel economy improvement like this,” says Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer in the UCS Clean Vehicles Program. “If finalized, these proposed standards will be the biggest increase in fuel economy in more than 30 years. That's good news for the environment, consumers' wallets and our nation's energy security.”

UCS calculates that the proposed standards would:

  • Reduce U.S. oil consumption by about 1.3 million barrels per day by 2020, nearly as much as we currently import from Saudi Arabia.
  • Cut global warming emissions by 217 million metric tons in 2020, the equivalent of taking nearly 32 million of today’s cars and light trucks off the road that year.
  • Save drivers $26 billion in 2020 based on a gas price of $2.25 per gallon, even after they pay the cost of vehicle technology improvements. (If gas prices spike to $4 a gallon again, the new standards would save drivers $60 billion in 2020.)

Patricia Monahan, director of UCS’s California office, notes that the agreement preserves California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to continue setting the nation’s strongest air pollution standards for vehicles.

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