WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and automakers ushered in the largest cut in fuel consumption since the 1970s on Friday with a deal that will save drivers money at the pump and dramatically cut heat-trapping gases coming from tailpipes.
The agreement pledges to double overall fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, bringing even greater under-the-hood changes to the nation's automobiles starting in model year 2017.
Cars and trucks on the road today average 27 mpg.
"This agreement on fuel standards represents the single most important step we have taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Obama said, sharing the stage with top executives of 11 major automakers and a top automobile workers union official, before a backdrop of some of the most cutting-edge cars and pickup trucks on the road.
"Just as cars will go further on a gallon of gas, our economy will go further on a barrel of oil," Obama said.
When achieved, the 54.5 mpg target will reduce U.S. oil consumption from vehicles by 40 percent and halve the amount of greenhouse gas pollution coming out of tailpipes.
It builds on a 2009 deal between the Obama administration and automakers, which committed cars and trucks to averaging 35.5 mpg by model year 2016.
The agreement would save $8,000 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle purchased in 2025, compared to a 2010 model, a White House analysis said.
The changes also are likely to push up the cost of a new vehicle, but just how much is unclear because the regulation still has to be written.
That process will get started in September.
The mileage target announced Friday isn't exactly what consumers will see in their future cars.
A formula that gives credits to manufacturers for electric cars, the use of low-emission air conditioning refrigerant and technology that shuts down engines at traffic lights means the actual fuel economy standard is likely to come in closer to 40 mpg.
Stickers on future cars and trucks will display different numbers based on tests that mimic real-world mileage.
And at a time when a consensus in Congress is elusive on the debt ceiling and curbing the federal deficit, the president said the fuel economy deal was a "valuable lesson" to Washington.
"You are all demonstrating what can happen when people put aside differences," Obama said. "These folks are competitors, you've got labor and business. But they said we are going to work together to achieve something important and lasting for the country."