Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Falling Gas Prices Cause US to Miss Fuel-Efficiency Targets?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Falling Gas Prices Cause US to Miss Fuel-Efficiency Targets?

Article excerpt

Falling gas prices might be a boon for your pocketbook. But it could also hurt the average fuel-efficiency of American vehicles, a report by the US Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the California Air Resources Board revealed Monday.

The report said automakers have the technology to meet the goals of a national program to improve the average fleet fuel economy from 25 miles per gallon to 54.5 by 2025. But the report said automakers' fleet-wide improvements will not be as extensive as the Obama administration had originally hoped for, because buyers, encouraged by historically low gas prices, are purchasing more trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The report indicates the difficulty federal regulators could have enforcing the aggressive mandates of the program, which aim to revolutionize the auto industry and its relationship to gas. But it is unclear if the agencies' projections about consumer habits will come true. Nevertheless, their findings will give automakers firepower to resist what regulators are asking of them.

"Given changes in the market landscape, it will be a daunting challenge to meet the very aggressive requirements of the 2022-2025 federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas rule," Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Reuters.

Under the national program for greenhouse-gas emissions and fuel economy standards for cars and tracks, automakers are not required to achieve target averages. Instead, the government allows them to hit different targets for different vehicle sizes. Trucks and SUVs have lower targets than small cars.

When the Obama administration first outlined the program in 2012, its goal was to boost the average fleet fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon. At that time, regulators projected 67 percent of vehicles sold in 2025 would be cars, compared to trucks and SUVs. But that was before gas prices plummeted.

A combination of low crude-oil prices and a high supply of refined oil have slashed gas prices to their lowest levels for July since 2004. …

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