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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Johnson, MPG Testing Announcement, Washington, D.C.

01/10/2006
    Thank you for being with us this afternoon. I would also like to thank AAA for joining me on the phone to announce an important effort on behalf of America’s motorists.

    When shopping for a vehicle, consumers weigh a variety of factors – such as performance, safety, style and cost.

    And when they think about the cost of filling-up at the gas station, consumers can do a world of good for their wallets and our environment when then consider the vehicle’s fuel economy.

    Light-duty vehicles, what an average American would call their family car, account for 40 percent of U.S. oil consumption. By driving a more fuel efficient car, truck or SUV, consumers can help reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil – contributing to our nation's energy security.

    These vehicles also account for 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So fuel efficiency means cutting down on these emissions and protecting our shared environment.

    But most important to consumers: fuel economy can save a bundle of money at the gas pump.

    In 2005, we saw that getting the most out of our gas dollar means a lot to car-shoppers. Just look at the skyrocketing sales of fuel efficient vehicles like hybrids, which more than tripled last year.

    With this interest in fuel savings and in fuel efficient vehicles, providing estimates that more closely reflect real-world driving conditions has become more important than ever for consumers who comparison-shop.

    Traveling on America’s highways, it is obvious that the driving world has changed a lot since 1985 – the last time EPA updated its fuel economy tests – both in terms of the vehicles themselves, and the conditions in which they operate.

    Twenty years ago, I was the proud owner of a Pontiac Catalina. Driving back and forth to work at EPA’s Headquarters in my Pontiac seems like just yesterday to me – but my car would not match up to today’s new vehicles – and either does the way we estimate fuel economy.

    Times have changed. Today’s vehicles are equipped with power-hungry accessories and technology to control the temperature, to lower our windows, to move our seats, and even to play our DVD players – all with just the push of a button.

    In 1985, most highway speed limits were 55. Today, even if you’re driving 65, you are probably one of the slowest cars on the road.

    And, as anyone who drives to work during rush hour can attest, today our streets are congested with heavier traffic no matter where you live.

    So I am pleased to announce that EPA is proposing strong but carefully-considered changes to our fuel economy estimate tests.

    These changes will ensure that when shoppers look at the fuel economy estimates on the window sticker, they can be confident those estimates more closely reflect today’s real world driving experiences.

    EPA is empowering consumers with better fuel economy estimates.

    We look forward to these changes taking effect for model year 2008 vehicles, which could hit dealer showrooms by the fall of 2007.

    Well, so what’s new?

    We’re making three key changes.

    Everyone knows there are a number of factors that affect fuel economy. So, for the first time ever, EPA’s fuel economy testing will now use vehicle-specific data on three real-world factors. Those include: higher road speeds and rapid acceleration; the use of air conditioning; and operating in cold temperatures.

    Second, we’re making adjustments to better account for other conditions that affect fuel economy. Things like road grade, wind, tire pressure, load, and the effects of different fuel properties.

    And third, we're proposing changes to the window sticker itself to make it more consumer-friendly. We understand that the value of our improved estimates depends, in part, on how easily the information on the window stickers is read, understood – and most importantly, used by consumers.
    In general, these updated methods will result in lower estimates.

    The City MPG estimates for conventional gas-powered vehicles could fall between 10 percent and 20 percent from today's labels, depending on the vehicle. Highway MPG estimates will dip between 5 percent and 15 percent.

    But let’s be very clear. When consumers see these lower numbers on the same vehicles they bought a few years ago, it doesn’t mean the manufacturer is now building the same vehicle with less fuel economy.

    Rather, it means our estimates are reflecting a broader, updated range of real world factors ... so that drivers will know that their fuel use more closely matches the sticker estimate.

    These updated estimates are about better information for American drivers, not worse fuel economy.

    Under EPA's revised methods, electric hybrids remain among the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market. In general, however, some hybrids may be affected more than conventional vehicles because a hybrid’s fuel economy more sensitive to certain factors that we're more fully accounting for, such as colder weather and air conditioning use.

    Of course, hybrid technology is quite young and still maturing. There is every reason to expect that future hybrids will improve their fuel economy performance over the broader range of conditions reflected in our proposal.

    As you all know, there is no perfect test. Even with this improved testing, actual fuel economy will vary since no test can ever account for all individual driving styles, vehicle maintenance practices, and road and weather conditions.

    We believe the new methods we’re unveiling will do a much better job.

    Today we are bridging the gap between the sticker estimates and the fuel economy drivers get on the road.

    I appreciate the input we’ve received from a wide array of our stakeholders, including industry, environmental, and consumer groups like AAA.

    Triple-A has done some lab and road testing of their own, and their results suggest that EPA is on the right track. You can visit their Web site, www.aaa.com/news, to view their analysis, as well as a letter from AAA President Robert Darbelnet on this effort.

    Our stakeholders share EPA’s commitment to giving drivers the best information possible about fuel economy. And I look forward to continuing to work with them to move our proposal forward.

    Meeting President Bush’s call to conserve our energy resources, EPA is helping American motorists make informed car-buying decisions … Decisions that are good for our environment, good for our energy security, and good for our wallets.

    Now I would like to turn it over to Susan Pikrillidas – the Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA.