California’s governor and environmental stakeholders in the state on Friday lauded the Obama administration for setting new, unprecedented fuel efficiency standards for the model years 2017-25. Major auto manufacturers joined the White House in announcing the new standards, which California has essentially already adopted.

The new standards call for fuel efficiency up to 54.5 mpg by 2025 and various incentives for alternative fuel vehicles, including electric vehicles (EV) and those running on natural gas. California officials stressed that the federal standards will unleash a lot of new technology from the private sector, something that players in the natural gas fuel sector are counting on.

“What this all demonstrates is that there is a very important, innovative role for government in setting aggressive objectives down the road,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said. “These mandates actually elicit R&D [research/development] and innovation by the private sector, which has to invent the technologies to provide lower emissions and EVs, fuel cells and other technologies that will be more protective of the environment.”

Brown said that with the newly crafted agreement by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the automobile industry and California, there is what he called “a workable agreement that every year will make vehicles more efficient and less dependent on foreign oil. This is a red letter day, and the president did something clearly unusual.”

For what Brown called “many, many administrations” there had been no progress on “corporate average fuel economy” rules, he said.

Mary Nichols, the chairman of the California Air Resources Board, which sets fuel efficiency standards in the state, lauded the fact that the “auto industry is at the table now and recognizing the need to move forward and set goals that are far in advance of anything the industry has previously supported.”

Nichols said the automakers now can actually “brag about what they are doing, compete against one another to unveil new technologies.” She called it a major step forward, particularly for U.S.-based auto companies. “Having the federal Department of Transportation and EPA working together is good for California and good for the nation as a whole,” Nichols said.

Environment California’s Bernadette Del Chiaro, the group’s Sacramento-based clean energy advocate, said the proposed federal clean car standards were developed with what she called “the full participation of California,” and she thinks the state is “in the driver’s seat” for developing clean energy solutions.

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