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Has U.s. Gasoline Demand Finally Peaked? Maybe...

This had been long rumored, but it looks like the Obama administration is finally getting set to ratchet up fuel-economy standards:

President Obama will announce as early as Tuesday that he will combine California’s tough new auto-emissions rules with the existing corporate average fuel economy standard to create a single new national standard, the officials said. …

Under the new standard, the national fleet mileage rule for cars would be roughly 42 miles a gallon in 2016. Light trucks would have to meet a fleet average of slightly more than 26.2 miles a gallon by 2016. …

The current standards are 27.5 miles a gallon for cars and about 24 miles a gallon for trucks. The new mileage and emissions rules will gradually tighten, beginning with 2011 models, until they reach the 2016 standards.

The auto industry is not expected to challenge the rule, which provides two things they have long asked for: certainty on a timetable and a single national standard.

On a related note, Jad Mouawad wonders whether this move, combined with the various other energy policies the White House is pursuing, could finally mean an end to the country's unrelenting three-decade-long rise in gasoline consumption. Ever since the oil shocks in the 1970s subsided, gas use has gone up, up, up. But that demand may have finally peaked. Even the oil and gas industry are starting to agree: ExxonMobil is now forecasting that U.S. gasoline demand will be lower in 2030 than it is today.

--Bradford Plumer