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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.

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Breaking the numbers down, Lahood projected consumers would save an average of $8,000 over the life of their vehicles by 2025. The net savings, he said, would be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by approximately $1 per gallon. Overall, Obama-era fuel-savings programs will by 2025 reduce US reliance on foreign oil by about 2 million barrels a day – nearly half of the oil imported from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries each day.

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Environmentalists hailed the move for setting the nation on a path to help reduce greenhouse gas emission from vehicle tail pipes. Between 2011 and 2025 some 6 billion tons in emissions would be prevented – more than all the carbon dioxide emitted by the US in 2010.

“As a onetime General Motors mechanic, I’m proud to see Americans already proving we have what it takes to lead in a prosperous clean energy future," Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. "Taken together, new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks are the biggest step America has ever taken to cut carbon pollution and reduce our oil dependence, critical for wildlife which faces both the global threat of climate change and the direct impacts of oil spills and pollution."

Not everyone was happy. Republicans in the House of Representatives decried what they depicted as government dumping more burdensome regulations on a struggling industry. It would even produce a physical threat to consumers, who would be forced to drive smaller cars that would not be as safe as larger vehicles today, some said.

“The rule finalized today by the Obama administration will hurt American consumers by forcing them to drive more expensive and less safe automobiles," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of Calif. "The administration drafted these standards in secret, strong-arming automakers and short-circuiting the deliberative regulatory process to achieve a purely political result, abandoning sound science and objectivity to appease its political allies in the extreme environmentalist lobby.”

But officials with Ceres, a Boston-based network of green investor groups targeting climate change, took exception to that narrative, saying the US auto industry is embracing the rules mindful of its own self-interest.

Over the long run, US automakers can expect $2.44 billion in added profits and 300,000 additional vehicle sales by 2020, according to Ceres analysis, backing up the industry's own statement. The new standard will drive industry innovation and create 484,000 new US jobs, Ceres projects.

"Automakers know that offering buyers a wide range of cars and trucks that go farther on a gallon of gas is good for sales and profits in the United States and around the world," said Mindy Lubber, Ceres president, in a statement. "When the rubber meets the road on the 54.5-mpg standard, they better be ready – or they’ll be left behind.”

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