Apr 1, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden administration unveils new fuel economy rules

Vehicles on Highway 101 in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Vehicles on Highway 101 in San Francisco, California on March 29, 2022. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Friday said it was raising fuel economy requirements, reversing a rollback by former President Trump.

Driving the news: The new standards will increase fuel efficiency requirements by 8% annually for model years 2024 and 2025 and 10% annually for model year 2026, according to the new rules.

  • "The new standards will make vehicle miles per gallon more efficient, save consumers money at the pump, and reduce transportation emissions," the NHTSA said in a statement.

The big picture: The Trump administration in March 2020 rolled back Obama-era fuel economy standards to require 1.5% annual increases in efficiency through 2026, Reuters reports. Former President Obama had required 5% annual increases.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December announced more stringent pollution standards for cars and light trucks in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.
  • The EPA's stricter vehicle emissions requirements are parallel to the NHTSA rules, but they don't exactly match. Under its vehicle emissions rule, the EPA estimates model year 2026 vehicles would see an average of 40 mpg.
  • Thought bubble from Axios' Andrew Freedman: The new standards won't go quite as far as those put in place under the Obama administration, which adjusted for the type of cars that people bought.
  • In recent years there has been a surge in demand for SUVs, which tend to be less fuel efficient.
  • Still, the significant gains in efficiency under the new rule, compared to the Trump administration's standards, would lower greenhouse gas emissions and cut consumers' costs at the pump.

What they're saying: "The Biden administration is putting fuel savings in the driver’s seat. These standards will cut our dependence on oil and save drivers money at the pump," Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles at Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement.

  • "Indeed, technological advancements, energy savings and consumer benefits justify even stronger standards."

Some environmental groups say the Biden administration's rules don't go far enough.

  • "The Biden administration’s weak gas mileage standards do little to alleviate consumers’ pain at the pump, since they don’t push GM and Toyota to shift from hawking gas guzzlers that fill the coffers of their golfing buddies at Exxon," Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Safe Climate Transport Campaign, said in a statement.
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