EPA rules rope in new CO2 limits

Cars and trucks driving on California's Interstate 10 freeway.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: In Washington this morning, the government announces new fuel efficiency standards on cars. And for the first time, they'll include limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The rules will apply to all new cars from next year on. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Brett Neely reports.


Brett Neely: After years of fighting, the auto industry agreed to tougher standards last year. By 2016, new cars will have to get an average of 34 miles per gallon of gas, up from 26 miles per gallon today.

The Environmental Protection Agency rules will set stricter standards for car air conditioners, too, says David Friedman at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

David Friedman: The air conditioners in our cars and trucks leak. And the gases that they leak out have more than a thousand times the impact on global warming as do the carbon dioxide emissions that come out of your tailpipe when you burn gasoline.

But efficiency comes at a cost. The EPA estimates the rules could add 1,300 bucks to the price of a new car. Call it a Cadillac tax.

Scott Segal: The larger the footprint of the automobile -- and I mean literally the size of the car -- the more difficult it will be for them to meet that, the auto efficiency standard. And so you might well expect a difference in price depending on the size of the car.

Scott Segal is an energy lobbyist for the law firm Bracewell and Giuliani. He says today's announcement is the first exercise of the EPA's new powers over greenhouse gases. Starting next year, big polluters like refineries and power plants will have to clean up their act.

Industry may wind up paying more, but David Friedman says consumers will come out ahead:

Friedman: We've estimated that the day you drive off the lot, you'll be saving more money on gasoline than you'll be paying in increased loan payments for your car.

And he says all that money saved is money not spent on foreign oil.

In Washington, I'm Brett Neely for Marketplace.

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