The White House is proposing stricter fuel efficiency and emissions standards for vehicles.
If approved, the changes would bump up the cost of new vehicles, but the government says drivers would recover the costs in fuel savings.
By 2016, cars will have to meet a tough new standard for fuel efficiency-- 35.5 miles per gallon.
"We are launching for the first time in history a new national standard aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in America," President Obama said.
The new standard will save so much gas, the government says, it will be like taking 42 million cars off the road.
"The new standards will preserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil, significantly reducing our dependence on foreign fuel," said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. "That will help protect us from oil price spikes that shook our economy last summer.
"Along with more money in their pockets, consumers will also have a stronger, more stable economy," she added.
Attempts to raise fuel efficiency standards in the past have been derailed by lawmakers who considered it a strike against Americans being able to drive what they want, even if it got low gas mileage.
Now, the atmosphere has changed.
"In the past, an agreement like this would have been impossible, but this time was different," Obama said. "Unlikely allies came together-- automakers, the UAW, environmental advocates, Democrats and Republicans, California and more than a dozen other states."
The new standard will increase the price of a new vehicle by about $1,300.
Consumers are expected to save about $3,000 in gas over the life of the vehicle.
The announcement may provide the Obama administration with momentum going into high-level international talks on climate change next week.
Some countries are waiting for the U.S. to pass legislation limiting greenhouse gases, but with health care front and center in Congress, the new fuel economy standards could serve as a place holder.
*Originally published September 15, 2009