Fine Print: Cleaner Cars by the Numbers

Tom Johnson | August 10, 2012 | Energy & Environment
New standards for cars and light trucks could drive fuel efficiency to more than 50 mpg and drastically reduce pollution

What it is: The Obama administration is expected to announce new fuel efficiency and carbon standards for cars and light trucks at the end of this month, according to Environment New Jersey.

Why it is significant: The new standards will cover cars and light trucks in model years 2017 through 2025, and are expected to require the average new car and light truck to hit a 54.5-mpg standard by 2025, roughly double the fuel efficiency standard of today’s cars and trucks.

How it will affect New Jersey: Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council indicates that the new standards will cut carbon pollution from vehicles by 6.1 million metric tons, the equivalent of more than 946,000 of today’s gas-powered vehicles.

What it means to consumer’s pocketbooks: According to analysis by environmental groups, the tougher fuel efficiency standard will save consumers $1.1 billion at the gas pump in 2030 in New Jersey alone.

Why tougher fuel efficiency standards are important to New Jersey: The tougher standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest source of pollution contributing to global climate change. New Jersey has established aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and many environmentalists say those targets will not be met if the state does not clamp down on pollution from vehicles.

How else the standards will help New Jersey: The state has never met the federal health-quality standard for ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog. Emissions from vehicles are a major source of smog, which blankets much of the state on hot summer days and causes many respiratory ailments.

What tougher fuel efficiency standards also might promote: The new standards could mean a swifter transition to electric cars. With the right policies in place, electric vehicles could reduce oil dependence in New Jersey by more than 3 million gallons per year. According to Environment New Jersey, more than 13,000 drivers in the state may purchase their first plug-in electric vehicle within the next three years. If so, it would reduce the state’s global warming pollution by up to 55,000 metric tons each year.

What it means nationally: If the clean car rules are adopted, it could help build over 1.4 million electric vehicles by 2025, according to environmental groups. In New Jersey, there are only 84-plug-in charging stations, most of them not available to the public.