U.S. Fuel Economy Standards Boosted to 31.6 MPG by 2015

gas gauge, empty, fuelThe White House has outlined their plan to increase fuel efficiency standards to 35 MPG by 2020, a move that will save Americans an estimated $100 billion in fuel costs.

The mandate was outlined in last year’s energy bill in December, but this proposal gives a boost to the timeline by requiring the mileage of passenger vehicles to average 31.6 MPG by 2015. That’s up from today’s average of 25 MPG (which I can’t help but mentioning is identical to the mileage of the original Model T Ford).

The proposal is open for comment for the next 60 days. Although auto makers have publicly endorsed it, not everyone is satisfied. California is leading a group of states to require more dramatic increases in fuel efficiency. They want to see the average hit 35.7 MPG by 2016.

But why stop at 35.7 MPG? According to a poll of 1,013 Americans conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, 76% of them would rather see 40 MPG reached by 2010. The advocacy group 40MPG.org says reaching this goal (even if it’s later than 2010) would “eliminate 1 billion tons of global warming pollution annually while saving consumers $3,000 to $5,000 over the life of a vehicle.” It would also eliminate our dependence on oil imports from the Middle East.

However far the proposal goes, it’s about time average fuel economy increased. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters commented that, as it stands “this proposal will save nearly 55 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicles affected … And it will save America’s drivers over $100 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of those vehicles.”

In a cap-and-trade like system, auto manufacturers who do better than the average requirements will gain credits they can trade to carmakers who don’t meet the them.

Publicly, large auto manufacturers have endorsed the new proposal. GM said it will “work with [the government] throughout its rulemaking process on the yearly targets and the sensible mechanisms needed to meet this challenge.” Similarly, Ford said they “are analyzing the proposal and remain committed to meeting the requirements set by Congress in last year’s energy bill.”

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In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.