Moving Forward to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vehicles

The Bush Administration is moving forward with a national solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from American vehicles. The new energy legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Bush this week provides a federal fuel economy standard that offers environmental benefits, energy security and economic certainty for the nation.

"The Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution – not a confusing patchwork of state rules – to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles," said U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "President Bush and Congress have set the bar high, and, when fully implemented, our federal fuel economy standard will achieve significant benefits by applying to all 50 states.”

EPA has determined that a unified federal standard of 35 miles per gallon will deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in all 50 states, which would be more effective than a partial state-by-state approach of 33.8 miles per gallon.

California’s current waiver request is distinct from all prior requests. Previous waiver petitions covered pollutants that predominantly impacted local and regional air quality. Greenhouse gases are fundamentally global in nature, which is unlike the other air pollutants covered by prior California waiver requests. These gases contribute to the challenge of global climate change affecting every state in the union. Therefore, according to the criteria in section 209 of the Clean Air Act, EPA did not find that separate California standards are needed to “meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.”

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to follow a process when determining waiver requests. EPA must provide a public comment and hearing opportunity. The statute also provides three very specific criteria that EPA should evaluate for any California waiver petition.

EPA held two hearings on the waiver request and the comment period began April 30 and closed June 15. The administrator and EPA staff reviewed the more than 100,000 written comments and thousands of pages of technical and scientific documentation received during the public comment period. The comments represented a wide scope of interests including those of states and localities, public health and environmental groups, academia, industry and private citizens.

The two primary approaches for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles are increasing the fuel economy of vehicles and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their fuel. The recently signed energy bill addresses both approaches by increasing the fuel economy from vehicles to 35 miles per gallon, an increase of forty percent, as well as increasing the amount of renewable fuel used to 36 billion gallons, nearly a five-fold increase.

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