Cars on highwayOn May 19, President Barack Obama unveiled new standards to regulate fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and light trucks.  

The bottom line:  New automobiles will have to get better gas mileage

The numbers:

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  • Current standards: 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 24 mpg for light trucks
  • Starting in 2012, fuel efficiency will rise more than 5 percent each year
  • New standards for 2016:  39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for light trucks — an overall average of about 35.5 mpg

The environmental benefits: 

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  • Will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program
  • Will prevent 900 million metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions
  • Will be like taking 177 million of today’s cars off the road, or shutting down 194 coal-fired power plants

Fans of the plan:

  • The major automakers, because they now have certainty and one clear set of regulations to follow
  • The major environmental groups, because the federal government is actually doing something to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions
  • California and 13 other states, because they have long wanted tougher auto emissions standards

Obama sings the plan’s praises:

In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible. That is why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington. … And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century.

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