New federal auto mileage rule on tap

The Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will roll out final rules Thursday that boost car and light truck fuel efficiency and create first-time auto emissions standards for carbon dioxide.

Thursday’s completion of the rules has long been expected. But it will provide the White House and environmentalists a chance to sing off on the same song sheet, a day after President Barack Obama announced a major offshore oil-and-gas drilling expansion that green groups strongly criticized.

Obama touted the auto efficiency rules Wednesday during a speech announcing the drilling plan, casting the drilling as just one part of a broader energy policy that’s heavy on conservation and renewable sources.

“Just a few months after taking office, I also gathered the leaders of the world's largest automakers, the heads of labor unions, environmental advocates and public officials from California and across the country to reach a historic agreement to raise fuel economy standards in cars and trucks,” Obama said during Wednesday’s speech at Andrews Air Force Base.

“And tomorrow, after decades in which we have done little to increase auto efficiency, those new standards will be finalized, which will reduce our dependence on oil while helping folks spend a little less at the pump,” Obama added.

Obama said the rules would ultimately save 1.8 billion barrels of oil, which he called akin to taking 58 million cars off the road for a year.

The new car and light truck rules cover model years 2012 through 2016. The plan boosts Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016, and combined with the greenhouse gas requirements will create a standard equivalent to 35.5 mpg.

The new rules ramp up mileage standards more quickly than a 2007 energy law, which mandated CAFE standards of 35 mpg by 2020.

Mileage standards for model year 2011 vehicles are 27.3 mpg.