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Cleaner Air for the New Century

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Council on Environmental Quality


Cleaner Air for the New Century

December 21, 1999

Today, President Clinton announces the boldest steps in a generation to improve air quality and protect public health by reducing pollution from cars and other vehicles. The new measures will produce cleaner fuels and significantly strengthen tailpipe emission standards for cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and light-duty trucks. Over the coming decade, these measures will cut smog-causing vehicle pollution 77 to 95 percent while preserving consumers' ability to drive the car of their choice. When fully implemented, they will provide cleaner air for all Americans, preventing 4,300 premature deaths, 173,000 cases of respiratory illness, and 260,000 asthma attacks among children each year.

New Clean Air Challenges. Since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, air pollution has been cut more than 30 percent, even as our population and economy have continued to grow. Since 1993, the number of Americans whose communities meet federal air quality standards has grown by 43 million. Yet these gains are threatened because Americans drive more than ever (up from 1 trillion miles a year in 1970 to 2.5 trillion in 1997) and increasingly favor higher-polluting SUV's, minivans and other light-duty trucks (now 50 percent of the new car market).

Cleaner Cars and Cleaner Fuels for the New Century. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that dramatic emission reductions can be achieved cost-effectively with available technology by coupling tighter tailpipe standards with cleaner fuel standards. The new measures, to be phased in from 2004 to 2009, would:

  • Apply a uniform tailpipe standard to passenger cars, SUVs and other light-duty trucks, producing cars that are 77 percent cleaner -- and light-duty trucks up to 95 percent cleaner -- than those on the road today.
  • Reduce average sulfur levels in gasoline by up to 90 percent from 300 to 30 parts per million. These reductions are needed because sulfur fouls catalytic converters, the units that remove pollutants from auto exhaust.

Once fully implemented in 2030, these new measures will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (a key component of smog) by [74] percent, and soot by [84] percent the equivalent to removing 164 million cars from the road.

Dramatic Improvements in Public Health. Americans of all ages will reap the health benefits of these new clean air protections. The projected costs to meet these standards about $100 for cars, $200 for light-duty trucks, and two cents per gallon of gas are far outweighed by the projected public health benefits. Annually, these benefits will include preventing:

  • 4,300 deaths, 2,300 cases of chronic bronchitis and 7,900 cases of acute bronchitis;
  • 260,000 asthma attacks and 100,000 cases of respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children;
  • 173,000 respiratory related illnesses (coughs, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and lung inflammation); and
  • 683,000 missed workdays and over 5 million days where people restrict their activity due to acute respiratory symptoms.

Click here for more information about The Clinton Administration's clean air accomplishments.

Click here to view the President's remarks on cleaner cars and cleaner fuels.

Click here a state by state breakdown of emissions reductions.

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Cleaner Air for the New Century

Cleaner Cars & Cleaner Fuels for the 21st Century

The Clinton Administration's Clean Air Accomplishments

President's Remarks on Cleaner Cars & Cleaner Fuels

State by State Breakdown of Emissions Reductions