The plan, described by the governor of California as ‘staggering’, has led to car makers dropping all threats of legal action against measures which will force them to be more fuel-efficient.
The deal envisages a programme from 2012 to 2016 to achieve a maximum fuel consumption of 35.5 miles per gallon. This would reduce CO2 emissions by around 25%, leading to average emissions of around 170 g/km in 2017, which was the level the EU was at in 2000.
Announcing the deal alongside representatives from American, Japanese and European car makers, Obama said: ‘The status quo is no longer acceptable. We have done little to increase the fuel efficiency of America’s cars and trucks for decades. This is unprecedented change.’
Improved fuel efficiency standards in America have been driven by California, but the state’s efforts have been constrained by former-president George Bush’s refusal to allow stricter standards in California than in the rest of the USA.
California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was ‘ecstatic’ at the news. ‘This is staggering,’ he said. ‘This president after 120 days in office has taken the action and pulled everyone together.’
Officials said the new regulations will add an average of $600 (€400) to the price of a new car, but Obama said the savings in fuel would wipe out the difference in three years. ‘The fact is that everyone wins,’ he said.
In March, Obama said he was making money available to help establish high-speed passenger rail lines in at least 10 regions across the USA.