Obama Takes Two Big Steps Towards Making Nation’s Vehicles Cleaner

President unveils improved vehicle fuel efficiency labels, announces federal government purchase of 116 electric vehicles

05-27-2011 // Miles Grant
EPA Fuel Efficiency Label

The Obama administration took two big steps this week towards making our nation’s vehicles cleaner. But an even bigger decision looms in the months ahead.

On Wednesday, the Obama administration unveiled improved vehicle fuel efficiency labels. The new labels include expanded fuel efficiency information, cost savings, and vehicle pollution data. 

Fuel efficiency labels are a critical tool for drivers as they look to make smart economic and environmental choices,” said Zoe Lipman, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for transportation and global warming solutions. “Our members have been at the forefront of addressing the impacts of our oil dependence on America’s public health and natural resources, and they value acting personally on clean air and water.”

The National Wildlife Federation had submitted public comment (PDF) urging adoption of several key features of the new labels, which will include:

  • Clear information on fuel efficiency that allows consumers to compare their vehicle against all vehicles and vehicles like the one they are considering.
  • Estimated annual fuel cost, with important new data on how much drivers can expect to save on fuel costs over five years
  • Easy-to-understand data on the vehicle’s emissions of pollutants that cause climate change and smog.

The new labels stop short of showing information on upstream pollution from increasingly diverse fuel sources, instead including that data as part of a package available via smart phone scan code.

The Obama administration also showed it’s willing to lead by example, on Tuesday announcing the federal government will purchase 116 plug-in electric vehicles, including 101 Chevrolet Volts, and install charging stations in Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. It’s part of a plan to have the federal government purchasing only alternative fuel passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks by 2015.

The General Services Administration has already begun purchasing more fuel efficient vehicles, with this year’s purchases averaging 21% better gas mileage than last year’s.

But the real game-changer could come in the months ahead.

The Obama administration has a chance to turn the corner on America’s oil dependence when it sets new fleet-wide vehicle standards for cars and light trucks,” said NWF’s Zoe Lipman. “Strong fuel efficiency standards can cut America’s oil dependence, support our economic recovery, and safeguard our natural resources.”

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