Fifteen years from now, the average car in the United States must travel on nearly 55 miles to the gallon, according to the new fuel-efficiency standards proposed Friday by the Obama Administration.
That's a sharp increase from the current standards, which require that vehicles average 34.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
California officials, environmental groups, and automakers are praising the new rules, which dictate a fleet-wide average for cars and light trucks of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
On a call with reporters today, Governor Jerry Brown called the new regulations, "probably the brightest light I've seen in Washington in many a month, if not years."
Brown said the new standards would encourage technological innovation, reduce fuel consumption and cut greenhouse gas emissions across the state and the country.
California has been fighting for tighter emissions restrictions on passenger vehicles for years. In 2002, the state began seeking a waiver from the EPA, so it could set its own greenhouse-gas emissions standards for cars. But that waiver wasn't granted until 2009. Last year the Obama administration announced the first greenhouse gas emissions standards on a national level, based on California regulations for vehicles manufactured through 2016.
The state had been set to announce its own rules for model years 2017-2025, but in January the Air Resources Board announced it would commit to a shared deadline with the federal government.
Officials from the California Air Resources Board worked closely with federal agencies, automakers, and environmental groups to develop the new rules.
"California has been pushing, starting way back with the Governor Reagan/President Nixon era, right up to to the present," said Brown. "And what this demonstrates here, is that with this persistence, the auto companies have finally come on board, and that innovative role for California was crucial in all this."
According to the White House, the new fuel standards will save 12 billion barrels of oil, eliminate six billion metric tons of CO2 pollution, and save consumers $1.7 trillion at the pump. In California alone, the new standards would save 180,000 barrels of oil a day, equal to cutting the state's oil consumption by 20%, according to the non-profit group, Environment California.
"We think this is a very good deal, and we are happy and proud to have played a role in shaping it," said California Air Resources Board head Mary Nichols.
"What California does is push the envelope. But not just for the sake of pushing the envelope. We do this because we have a need to reduce the impact of our whole transportation system on our environment and to improve its economic performance," Nichols said.
Cars and light trucks are currently responsible for 28% of California's greenhouse gas emissions.
Gretchen Weber is the Multimedia Producer for Climate Watch