Some good news today: federal govt. and automakers agree to 54.5 mpg average by 2025

Some good news that got sort of lost on a rather grim news day.

Automakers and the Obama administration today officially announced an agreement that almost doubles the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

That’s a huge jump, and it’s clear that such increased efficiency will be good for household bank accounts, probably for air quality (depending on what new technologies are employed), for American energy independence.

From Autoweek:

Unlike the first CAFE standards passed by Congress in 1975, the Detroit automakers now publicly support the high requirements and have begun retooling their fleets to adapt the changes.

“[This] represents the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Obama said in a morning press conference.

The UAW has also voiced its support for the new rules after earlier expressing concerns. California legislators, who have pushed for strict fuel-economy standards, also are on board with the new regulations.

The president’s plan was finalized after weeks of wrangling that saw the original number–56.2 mpg–slightly softened. The requirements will be phased in, giving automakers time to adapt. The increases would begin taking effect for 2017 trucks and 2018-model-year cars.

With car executives and union officials on hand, Obama lauded the agreement reached, despite considerable anxiety over the costs and future complications the mpg requirements could cause.

“We set an aggressive target, and the companies here are stepping up to the plate,” the president said. “This is an incredible commitment that they’ve made.”

VW has publicly complained about the fact that the goals are more aggressive for cars than for light trucks, but Autoweek notes, “Carmakers almost universally came out in praise of the new requirements–perhaps not wanting to be on the wrong side of history.”

It would also be tricky politically for the carmakers to come out against higher standards, since two of them were bailed out by the federal government and all benefited from “cash for clunkers.”

Also, auto industry executives are apparently looking realistically at future demand: in an era of $3.60/gallon gas — and with higher prices a virtual certainty — consumers will be shopping for more fuel-efficient cars.