US preparing new auto mileage standards

The White House is negotiating new vehicle mileage and emissions standards with carmakers, labour unions and environmental groups, proposing rules that would sharply cut petrol bills for US drivers and put domestic manufacturers on a par with those in Europe and Asia.

The talks would also help the Obama administration make progress towards its elusive goal of reducing carbon emissions and tackling global warming.

White House officials are talking to manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford, environmentalists, unions and state governments about the standards, with negotiations due to be complete by September and a final rule in place by the middle of next year.

The administration has reportedly proposed regulations that would require new US cars and trucks to average 56.2 miles per gallon of petrol by 2025, nearly double the current level. This would require improvements in fuel efficiency of almost 5 per cent a year between 2017 and 2025.

“We continue to work closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop an important standard that will save families money and keep the jobs of the future here,” said Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman. “A final decision has not been made, and as we have made clear we plan to propose a standard in September.”

Carmakers said it was technically possible to produce vehicles that met such standards, but warned it would mean smaller, often more expensive cars. Meeting a standard of 56.2mpg would likely add at least $2,100 to the price of a new vehicle.

“We can build these vehicles,” said Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the industry lobby group, told the New York Times. “The question is, will consumers buy them?”

When the Obama administration took office and took over the effort of rescuing carmakers Chrysler and GM, it asked the companies to agree to improve fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks built up until 2016 to 35.5mpg.

But the US still has some of the world’s lowest mileage and vehicle emissions standards. European carmakers are expected to achieve fuel efficiency of 60mpg within nine years.

Unions fear aggressive standards could reduce sales and put jobs in danger, but environmental activists are pushing for stricter regulations to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Pew Clean Energy Program supports a minimum standard of 56.2mpg.

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