The road to cleaner cars and better air is long…and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been traveling it for nearly 50 years.

Born in the 70s…what a gas

In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed a comprehensive Clean Air Act and created the EPA to enforce it. One of the EPA’s first jobs was to reduce the emissions of new vehicles by 90 percent within the next five years. (No pressure.)

The EPA rose to the challenge by testing the fuel economy of cars and trucks, reducing the amount of lead allowed in gasoline, educating the public about gas mileage, and creating HOV lanes. Automakers did their part in working with the EPA to come up with new technologies to meet the new standards. All of these types of activities continue to this day.

Pedal to the metal in the 80s, 90s and 2000s

The result of good work is more work, right? Amendments to the Clean Air Act throughout the 1970s and 1980s called for increasingly strict standards for fuel economy, emissions reductions, and lead content in gasoline, all of which the EPA continued to regulate.

In 1983, the EPA established the first emissions testing requirement for cars in areas with heavy air pollution, with such testing becoming increasingly rigorous into the 1990s. The year 1996 was a banner year for the EPA, marking the complete ban of lead in gasoline, a goal the EPA had worked toward for 25 years.

Over the last two decades, EPA has refined its standards and expanded its reach to mandate cleaner engines of all kinds:

  • Motorcycles
  • Personal watercraft
  • Handheld gardening tools
  • School busses
  • Trains
  • Commercial cargo ships

In 2010, EPA created the first standards for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), with the expectation of reducing GHG emissions by nearly 100 million metric tons and saving nearly two billion barrels of oil by the end of 2016.

In 2011, the EPA introduced new fuel economy labels for the 2013 model year that provide car buyers with easy-to-understand information on fuel economy, energy consumption, fuel costs and impact to the environment.

7 themes that will drive the future

The mission of the EPA remains to study environmental problems, develop and enforce regulations that protect our health and the environment, and educate us about the issues. The EPA’s upcoming initiatives are guided by these seven themes:

  1. Making a visible difference in communities across the country
  2. Addressing climate change and improving air quality
  3. Taking action on toxins and chemical safety
  4. Protecting water and improving water quality
  5. Launching a new era of state, tribe and local partnerships
  6. Embracing the EPA as a high-performing organization, with top talent and technologies
  7. Working toward a sustainable future with long-term solutions

Feeling inspired by the EPA? Learn ways you can help including improving your gas mileage and reducing your car’s carbon footprint.