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With nearly 250 million light duty vehicles on the road, the United States has the largest vehicle fleet in the world, and annual new vehicle sales second only to China.
Despite its historical role in pioneering vehicle regulations, from the mid-1980s until very recently the U.S. lagged behind other developed nations in passenger vehicle fuel economy standards and emissions regulations (see the global PV standards update), with higher levels of CO2 emissions per mile, higher average fuel consumption, and lower average fuel economy. However, since 2009 the United States has adopted aggressive legislation that could make the country a global leader in fuel efficiency and GHG emissions control. And market demand for fuel-efficient gasoline, hybrid, and electric vehicles is growing.
In late 2011, the federal government finalized emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The rule is a global milestone, though Japan established the first fuel economy program for medium and heavy-duty vehicles in 2005 (set to go into effect in 2015). The U.S. action is particularly significant because it drives efficiency improvements in the two vehicle classes with the highest fuel consumption, tractor trucks and pickup trucks and establishes standards for four major greenhouse gases in addition to the fuel consumption limits.
Fuel suppliers in the US are subject to the EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard 2, which sets volume targets for the use of several categories of biofuel (conventional, advanced, cellulosic and biomass based diesel) to 2022. The categories are based on criteria including minimum carbon savings (as anticipated with technology development to 2022) that take into account indirect emissions. The cellulosic mandate has had to be largely waived thus far into the program, due to the slower than expected commercialization of cellulosic biofuels. At the state level, the most significant development in clean fuels policy is California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which imposes a target of a 10% reduction by 2020 in the lifecycle carbon intensity of the transport fuel supply, including indirect emissions from biofuels. A similar program is in effect in British Columbia, and several are under consideration in other US states.