The new fuel economy gasoline label
The new fuel economy gasoline label - 
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Kai Ryssdal: I saw gas for $3.99 around the corner from my house the other day. In other words, not $4 a gallon. And even though pump prices are sliding backward slowly, car buyers are no doubt a bit more curious about miles-per-gallon now than they were a year ago. Today, the Feds unveiled what they consider a spiffed-up fuel economy sticker that will go on new cars starting with the 2013 model year.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner reports.

Sarah Gardner: Administration officials didn't waste time trying to gain some political mileage off the new window stickers.

Here's how Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood introduced them today...

Ray LaHood: We understand that gasoline prices are killing family budgets. And we're doing everything we can to help family budgets.

LaHood says the new labels not only give the familiar "miles per gallon," they also give a fuel economy and greenhouse gas rating on a scale of 1 to 10, along with a smog rating. Along with savings in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new car. And special labels for hybrids and electric vehicles that include driving range and charge times.

The new fuel economy label helps consumers shopping for a new car by providing comprehensive fuel economy information for a wide variety of vehicles. (Credit: USEPAgov)

Ed Lapham is executive editor at Automotive News.

Ed Lapham: Frankly if you look at this label, it's very difficult to tell what the heck it means.

Which benefits carmakers, claims Dan Becker at the Safe Climate Campaign. He preferred an earlier draft of the label that assigned a simple letter grade for fuel economy. A system that would have probably doled out B's and C's to the majority of vehicles on the road right now.

Dan Becker: The auto industry just came down like a ton of bricks and lobbied the administration to death on it. And so the administration caved to their pressure, which is very disappointing.

Automakers called letter grades too simplistic. Consumers Union agreed and today praised the more complex labels as "clear" and "science-based." At least, all the science you can reasonably fit on a window sticker.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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