WASHINGTON (CNN) - In one of the federal government's most dramatic steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions ever, President Obama on Tuesday will combine California's tough auto-emission rules with the federal government's current fuel efficiency guidelines to create one tough new national standard for cars and light trucks, according to a senior administration official.
The new regulations will take effect beginning in 2012 and force automobiles to get more fuel efficient over the course of the following five years. By 2016, cars will be required to get 39 miles per gallon while light trucks will be forced to reach 30 mpg for a fleet average of 35.5 miles per gallon, according to the senior administration official. The current standards require 22.2 MPG for passenger cars and 23.12 MPG for 2009 models of light trucks and SUVs.
"This has the effect of preserving consumer choice," said the senior administration official, who briefed reporters in advance of the official announcement. "You can continue to buy whatever sized car you like. All cars get cleaner."
Obama will unveil the changes at a 12:15pm event in the Rose Garden on Tuesday. Administration officials say that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will both be in attendance for the event along with executives from auto manufacturing companies.
Struggling U.S. automakers are already signaling their support because they believe the new national standard will help provide some certainty for their long-term planning, instead of dealing with the current patchwork of state regulations.
Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, noted there has been a debate for nearly a decade over whether states or the federal government should regulate autos.
"President Obama's announcement ends that old debate by starting a federal rulemaking to set a national program," said McCurdy. "Automakers are committed to working with the President to develop a national program administered by the federal government."
Environmental groups, who have been briefed in advance of the official announcement, are already hailing the changes as an historic effort to combat global warming. Administration officials claim the changes will be the equivalent of taking 177 million cars off the road in terms of impact on the environment.
"These new national rules build on California's ground-breaking standards to tackle global warming pollution from cars and trucks," said Frances Beinecke, president of the National Resources Defense Council. "Starting in model year 2012, the new standards will deliver cleaner, higher-mileage cars nationwide, cut global warming pollution, and save drivers money every time they fill up."