Last week the Obama administration met with the big three U.S. automakers to discuss having all cars and light trucks meet an average of 56.2 miles per gallon standard by 2025. While the plan would boost the price of automobiles, advocates say it will be made up by consumers in lower fuel costs. Detractors see the plan as overly ambitious.
Meetings with the Big Three
In separate private meetings, administration officials met with Ford, Chrysler and GM to discuss the feasibility of the plan. According to a document represented at the meeting, the average cost of a car would increase $2,100 to meet the proposed standard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in association with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will publish the proposed rule by Sept. 30.
Standards already set for 2016
The proposed figure is a compromise. Automakers are already expected to achieve an average of 35.5 mpg by 2016. The Transportation Department and the EPA have said said they would consider a standard in the range of 47 mpg to 62 mpg for improvements between 2017 and 2025. The new standard, if set, would mean an additional 5 percent improvement per intervening year.
Environmentalists want the higher standard
Environmental groups want the higher standard of 62 mpg. Roland Hwang, transportation program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Fifty-six mpg, while not as ambitious as the level we have been advocating, is a doubling in fuel efficiency from today’s average passenger vehicle and would cut drivers’ fuel bills in half.”
Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign at the Center for Auto Safety, warns, “It is not just the number that matters. It’s the loopholes underneath it. And automakers will look to turn whatever number it is into Swiss cheese.”
A government analysis has shown that to achieve 62 mpg, all vehicles would be required to be gas-electric hybrids.
Auto dealers find the plan ‘overly ambitious’
Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said the proposed 56.2 mpg figure is unrealistic. “Overly ambitious standards set 14 years in the future risk severe economic harm if consumer wants and needs are not met,” he said.
Two of the Big Three weigh in
Mark Reuss, the North American president of GM, seemed optimistic about the goal. “When you put those things in for the first time, they may be more expensive. But this is a volume and scale industry. What was very expensive in the past is no longer very expensive.”
Christin Baker, a spokeswoman for Ford, was more cautious. She said Ford would support a “national program that is data driven and factors in the impact of this rule-making on jobs, the economy, consumers and safety.” She did not comment specifically on the proposed 56 mpg figure.
Chrysler has not commented on the matter at this time.