Local environmental groups back new fuel economy rules

Midwestern environmental groups say the Obama administration's new efficiency standards for cars and light trucks will be good for the region.

Average fuel economy for passenger cars is set to increase to more than 37 mpg by 2016 - an improvement of nearly 40 percent.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center says that means Minnesotans could save 600-million-dollars a year and avoid two-million-metric tons of global warming pollution, according to

One disappointment for auto makers is that all-electric cars will not be rated at zero emissions.

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The Center's director, Howard Lerner, says that's because the government needs to take into account the source of electricity that charges the vehicle.

"And when it comes to electric vehicles, it does make a difference whether the charging source is clean or highly polluting," Lerner said.

In the midwest, coal is the biggest source of electricity.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy's Jim Erkel said ethanol should get a boost, because makers of flexible-fuel vehicles can get credit depending on how much E-85 blend is used.

"There's actually a reason for manufacturers to begin tracking how much use there is of the E85 blend, and would actually provide an incentive for more use of that and the production of more flexible fuel vehicles," Erkel said.

Erkel said the new rules could also advance efforts to keep St. Paul's Ford plant open, as companies will need to develop innovative fuel-efficient technologies.

The new standards go into effect with model year 2012.