New standards for carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles were announced by the Obama administration on Thursday, even as President Barack Obama came in for criticism from environmental groups for authorising a major offshore oil-and-gas drilling expansion.

At the announcement of the drilling project Mr. Obama said, “After decades in which we have done little to increase auto efficiency, those new standards will be completed, which will reduce our dependence on oil while helping folks spend a little less at the pump.” Canada joined the U.S. in mandating that cars and trucks deliver on average 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016.

According to the administration, the new emission standards would ultimately save 1.8 billion barrels of oil, as they aim to boost the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). The current economy limit is 25 miles per gallon.

Combined with the mandated greenhouse gas requirements, the new rules would raise mileage standards closer to 35.5 mpg, more quickly than a 2007 law that would achieve this level only by 2020.

According to reports, mileage standards for model year 2011 vehicles are 27.3 mpg; however the new vehicle emissions standards will be phased in starting with the 2012 model year.

On the administration’s attempt to build broad support around the new standards Mr. Obama said, “Just a few months after taking office, I also gathered the leaders of the world's largest automakers, the heads of labour unions, environmental advocates and public officials from California and across the country to reach a historic agreement to raise fuel economy standards in cars and trucks.”

More In: International | News