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Regulations to boost auto MPG, price tag

DOT: Less gas use to offset $1,800 rise

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Obama administration on Tuesday released final regulations forcing automakers to more than double the fuel economy of cars and light trucks by 2025 — and adding at least $1,800 to their price tags.

"By the middle of the next decade, our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today," President Obama said in a statement. "It'll strengthen our nation's energy security, it's good for the middle class and it will help create an economy built to last."

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation released the rule, first announced in November, for vehicles built from 2017 to 2025. Existing regulations already apply to vehicles built between now and 2016, requiring cars and light trucks to achieve 35.5 mpg by the end of that term.

All told, the two sets of regulations could cost as much as $192 billion, with administration officials estimating that the sticker price of a new vehicle will shoot up by $1,800.

Mr. Obama's rival, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, on Tuesday reiterated his opposition to the "extreme" standards imposed by the White House.

"The president tells voters that his regulations will save them thousands of dollars at the pump, but always forgets to mention that the savings will be wiped out by having to pay thousands of dollars more upfront for unproven technology that they may not even want," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.

Administration officials argue that the increased cost of new vehicles will be more than offset by savings in fuel consumption, which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood estimated to be $8,000 over the life of a car built in 2025.

"We're raising the bar and ensuring that American are preparing for fluctuations in gas prices," he told reporters during a conference call. "We are also giving manufacturers the regulatory certainty they need to build efficient cars that deliver what drivers want today and in the future."

Requiring higher fuel efficiency is part of the Obama administration's plan to reduce oil imports and limit air pollution. U.S. automakers agreed to the rules last year.

"They're not trying to make regulations go away. They know the government can help consumers," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Tuesday, referring to the administration's dialogue with domestic car manufacturers.

She also estimated that the 2017-to-2025 rules will ultimately reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by up to six billion metric tons. For that reason, the auto rules have proven popular among environmentalists, a key constituency for the president.

"Today, President Obama has taken the most significant action by any president in history to move our country off oil and slash dangerous, climate-disrupting pollution that threatens our children's future," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

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