Politics & Government

Federal rules aim to clamp down on car exhaust

The Obama administration approved new rules Thursday that ramp up fuel economy in cars and crack down on global-warming pollution in vehicle exhaust.

The regulations adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation mark the first time the federal Clean Air Act has been used to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from any source.

The federal clean-cars program is modeled after ones adopted by California in 2002 and by 13 other states, including one approved by Washington in 2005. But the programs had been stymied by the federal government during the George W. Bush presidency.

Environmental groups praised Thursday’s move to boost fuel economy in new cars to an average of 38 miles per gallon and cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 34 percent by 2016.

Fuel savings in 2016 model vehicles is estimated 11.6 billion gallons, or $31 billion for U.S. consumers paying $2.75 per gallon of gas, according to a March 2010 Environment America report.

The same report pegged global-warming pollution cuts at 108 million tons in 2016, which would be the equivalent of taking 21.4 million cars off the road.

“The cars of tomorrow will be cleaner and cost less to fuel,” said Cara Dolan of Environment Washington.

The clean-cars program is an important measure for fighting climate change in the Northwest, where vehicle exhaust is the largest source of climate-change pollution, said Ross McFarlane, senior adviser for Climate Solutions.

It isn’t all smooth sailing for the clean-cars program.

Some members of Congress, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are pushing legislation to block the new fuel-economy standards and strip the Clean Air Act of its ability to limit global-warming pollution.

And forcing consumers into smaller cars will increase traffic fatalities, critics claim.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444