The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal government agency whose job is to protect the environment and human health. The EPA achieves this end by draft and enforcing regulations based on the legislation passed by Congress. The Environmental Protection Agency is divided into ten regions in the United States, each of which is responsible for implementing EPA programs within its states.
Laws drafted and enacted by the EPA impact air, water, land, waste management and agriculture. There are two major categories of environmental laws: those that influence environmental protection and those that influence the EPA regulatory process. Some of the most notable environmental legislation is the Clean Air Act (CAA), which gives the EPA the authority to set standards for emissions and air quality. Also noteworthy is the Clean Water Act (CWA), which authorizes the governing of waste discharge into U.S. waters (www.epa.gov).
In 2009, the Obama administration announced a national initiative aimed at cutting the carbon emissions of new vehicles, and increasing the mileage by at least 30 percent. The program would also reduce the oil requirements in cars purchased by American consumers. It would allegedly save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of vehicles sold in the next five years. Perhaps more importantly in the context of this discussion is that the MPG improvements could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 900 million tons or more. The CAFE standard, which stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, determine the number of miles per gallon that an automaker should expect to get for the fleet of vehicles it sells.
The current CAFE standards are 27.5 miles per gallon for a passenger car (Godoy, 2007). Under the Obama plan, the CAFE standard would be 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, and a target possibly as high as 62 MPG by the year 2025. Of course, in order for the EPA to be able to realistically enforce these standards, automakers must be capable of producing vehicles that can achieve these new standards.
Therefore, it becomes easy to see how the new MPG improvement law, once officially drafted and finalized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, will impact the environment, business and society. A tradeoff will exist between the environment and the economy. This will certainly impact the decisions made by many businesses. Fuel-efficient vehicles cost the automotive industry billions of dollars to research, develop and produce. Development costs for vehicles that can achieve these standards could be as high as $3,500 per vehicle. However, it should be noted that automakers largely back the Obama rule to raise the MPG requirement.
These gas saving cars also increase the final cost of the vehicle, which is then passed on to consumers. Under the Obama plan, the increased cost to consumers could be as much as $1,300 per vehicle by the year 2016. However, it is of note that the increase in fuel efficiency could save consumers anywhere between $4,900 and $7,400 over the life of the vehicle (Godoy, 2007). Many in favor of the Obama increase in CAFE standards point to the fact that producing CAFE-compliant cars will add much-needed jobs to the automotive industry. At a minimum, the demand for this new technology could increase jobs for engineers. There are certainly tradeoffs to be felt with such an aggressive form of legislation, and the benefits and affects will surely be felt by all manner of society.
Barrow, Christopher J. (2006). Environmental Management for Sustainable Development (Routledge Introductions to Environment Series, 2nd Ed). Taylor & Francis Routledge.
Pages 8-18, 20-38, 126-141.
Eilperin, Juliet (2010). Emissions Limits, Greater Fuel Efficiency for Cars, Light Trucks Made Official. The Washington Post, retrieved October 15, 2010 from http://www .washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/01/AR2010040101412.html.
Godoy, Maria (2007). CAFE Standards: Gas-Sipping Etiquette for Cars. NPR.org, retrieved October 15, 2010 from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5448289,
Heritage.org’s Article on Energy and Environmental Issues
pages 8 to 18.
Obama Unveils MPG Rule, Gets Broad Support. www.msnbc.com, May 19, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30810514/.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via www.epa.gov.