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Fuel-efficient US cars? Obama sets target of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

The 54.5 mpg target is double the average fuel efficiency of today's US vehicle fleet. Automakers and environmentalists endorsed the new standards, but some Republicans decried the regulatory burden.

By Staff writer / August 28, 2012

In this 2011 photo, President Barack Obama walks down a ramp after delivering a speech at a gathering where he announced new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks at the Washington Convention Center in Washington.The average gas mileage of new cars and trucks will have to nearly double by 2025 under regulations that were finalized Tuesday.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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US vehicle fleets will need to average 54.5 miles per gallon beginning in 2025, about double the level today and one automakers had for years declared was impossible, according to new fuel-efficiency standards set Tuesday by the Obama administration.

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The new standards – endorsed by automakers as facilitating long-term planning and lauded by environmentalists as leading toward a cleaner energy future – were nevertheless deplored by some Republicans in Congress as burdensome.

As part of its program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the administration previously set a goal of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Tuesday’s move vaults the energy-saving engine technology bar yet again for automakers – and for individual consumers, who are projected to save thousands of dollars at the gas pump on their way to cutting US oil consumption by about 700 million barrels per year.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” President Obama said in a statement. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption."

By the middle of the next decade, US vehicles will on average achieve almost double the mileage they do today, Mr. Obama noted. Besides strengthening US energy security, the move was "good for middle-class families" and would boost the economy, he said.

That statement was backed up by automakers. After decades of resisting such steps, US-based automakers – whose sales are strong at present – seemed in lock step in saying the new standards would help them make better investments by creating greater regulatory certainty rather than having to meet clean-air rules on a state-by-state basis.

"The Auto Alliance has called for a single, national program because conflicting requirements from several regulatory bodies raise costs, ultimately taking money out of consumers' pockets and hurting sales," the group of 13 major automakers – including Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo – said in a statement. "We all want to get more fuel-efficient autos on our roads, and a single, national program with a strong midterm review helps us get closer to that shared goal."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, whose agencies tightly coordinated to arrive at achievable pollution and fuel-reduction numbers that the automakers could live with, announced the mileage standards at a press conference.

“Simply put, this groundbreaking program will result in vehicles that use less gas, travel farther, and provide more efficiency for consumers than ever before – all while protecting the air we breathe and giving automakers the regulatory certainty to build the cars of the future here in America,” Secretary LaHood said at a Washington press conference.

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