Obama believes "it's possible in the next 20 years for vehicles to use half the fuel and produce half the pollution that they do today". This is, no doubt, an aggressive goal. In cooperation with California, the federal government plans to achieve substantial reductions in emissions by steadily adjusting the minimum requirements. Although no specific figures have been given at this point, manufacturers have somewhat of a green light to begin investing in design efforts to improve fuel efficiency.
The new standard will effect cars and light duty trucks from 2017 to 2025. The medium and heavy duty truck standard will be active from 2014 to 2018. Details of the requirements have yet to be decided. We should begin to see targets announced late next year.
I would like to see the federal government focus on investing in public transportation. No matter how efficient they force cars and trucks to be, we will still have millions of people driving around by themselves. Improve and expand the public transportation infrastructure, give commuters and travelers incentives to use it, and motor vehicle traffic will begin to diminish. Rail travel offers a versatile and efficient mode of transportation. Consider the benefits of electrified passenger train service: zero emissions, very quiet operation, and very low rolling resistance (compared to vehicles with tires). The best part of it is, they've been running like this for years. They just need people to get on board. Literally!