WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. government on Thursday announced several new fuel and emissions standards for American vehicles, marking the first time auto emissions have been regulated on a national scale.
The new rules, announced by U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, will save about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The rules are projected to save a buyer of a 2016 vehicle $3,000 over the life of the car due to better fuel economy, which will bump up to 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016. With air conditioning improvements mandated by the EPA, average fuel efficiency could reach 35 mpg, which translates to 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile.
The new regulations are one of the top priorities of the Obama administration, announced last May, and mark the first time greenhouse gas emissions limits have been set for passenger cars and light trucks in the United States.
According to the new regulations, starting in 2012, automakers will have to begin reducing car emissions by 5 percent every year to reach the 34.1 mpg standard by 2016.
The new standards reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the regulated vehicles by 960 million metric tons over their lifetime, essentially removing 50 million cars off the road by 2030, officials said.
The streamlined rules also will help automakers conform to one set of standards as opposed to national and state standards.
Currently, cars and light trucks contribute to 60 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in United States, officials said.
"These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air."
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also touted the plan. "This is a significant step towards cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand-in-hand," she said.