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For Immediate Release, July 28, 2011

Contact: Kassie Siegel, (760) 366-2232 x 302

Proposed Gas-mileage Rules Too Weak to Make Needed Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Obama Proposal Would Squander Historic Opportunity to Cut Pollution, Help Climate

WASHINGTON— The Obama administration on Friday is expected to propose vehicle fuel-emission standards that fall far short of what is needed to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. The proposed standards for tailpipe emissions and gas mileage for 2025 are below the European Union’s proposed standards for 2020 and would leave the United States, which has long had the weakest fuel economy standards in the world, as a global laggard.

Under the widely reported proposal, gas mileage would reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The proposal would set standards far below what is achievable, requiring an increase of 5 percent for cars annually from 2017 through 2025, with a lesser increase required for light trucks. The Center for Biological Diversity recommended adoption of standards exceeding 60 miles per gallon.

“These weak standards would squander a golden opportunity to cut carbon pollution and reduce the nation’s oil addiction,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “In this country we perfected the technology to put a man on the moon in eight years, yet the administration’s proposed fuel economy standards for 14 years from now are lower than what we can achieve with technology on the road today.”

Current laws require the government to set fuel efficiency standards at the “maximum feasible” level and are designed to spur technological innovation by requiring that standards be set beyond what is achievable today. Yet despite these requirements, the administration’s proposal, widely reported to be the result of closed-door negotiations with the auto industry, would lock the nation into an inadequate pace of progress for the next 14 years.

The transportation sector accounts for about a third of total U.S. greenhouse emissions — and passenger vehicles account for about two-thirds of transportation emissions, spewing nearly 1,200 million metric tons of “carbon dioxide equivalent” emissions each year. Technologies are available today to make significant reductions, including more efficient and less-polluting engines and transmissions, strong but lightweight materials, improved aerodynamics, and hybrid and electric vehicles.

It is vital that swift, significant reductions in greenhouse gas pollution are enacted. The effects of climate change are already upon us, manifested in sea-ice loss, drought, heat waves, sea-level rise, an increase in disease, crop failure and species extinction risk.

“An ambitious improvement in fuel economy is one of the easiest and most important steps we can take to address the climate crisis,” said Siegel. “The administration needs to set the standard at the level the law requires and the public deserves, not the level to which the auto industry will agree.”

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