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New federal standards would double car fuel efficiency

Updated: August 28, 2012 4:18PM

WASHINGTON — The average gas mileage of new U.S. cars and trucks will have to nearly double by 2025 under regulations finalized Tuesday, with President Barack Obama saying the new fuel standards “represent the single most important step” his administration has taken to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

The regulations will push automakers to introduce new technology to make vehicles cleaner and more efficient. They also will halve the greenhouse gas pollution coming from cars and light truck tailpipes by 2025, the White House said in a statement.

The new rules would require the fleet of new cars and trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon in 13 years, up from 28.6 miles per gallon at the end of last year.

The administration says the regulations will save families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and bring an average savings of $8,000 over the lifetime of a new vehicle sold in 2025.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has opposed the new standards, and his campaign on Tuesday called them extreme and said they would drive up the price of new cars. Any savings at the gas pump would be wiped out by rising costs of cars, the campaign said.

By 2025, some bigger models may disappear, and dealers could offer more efficient gas-electric hybrids, natural gas vehicles and electric cars. There also will be smaller motors, lighter bodies and more devices to save fuel, such as circuits that temporarily shut off engines at traffic lights. The changes will raise new car prices, but the government says that will be more than offset by savings at the gas pump.

The gas mileage requirements will be phased in gradually and get tougher starting in 2017. They build on a 2009 deal between the Obama administration and automakers that committed cars and trucks to average 35.5 miles per gallon by model year 2016.

Automakers have been adding technology to boost gas mileage, mainly because people want to spend less on gasoline, which averaged about $3.75 per gallon this week. The research firm J.D. Power and Associates says that fuel economy is the top factor people consider when buying a car in the U.S.

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