The U.S. government expects new vehicle fuel efficiency requirements to reduce oil imports, according to a report by Reuters. The standards will be phased in starting with the 2012 model year, raising vehicle fuel economy to an average 35.5 miles per gallon by the time the 2016 models are in showrooms. This is up 42 percent from the current level.

Over two decades, the government expects the new requirements will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. That”s about a quarter of current annual consumption of oil, reports Reuters, with Energy Department forecasting U.S. oil consumption at 6.9 billion barrels for 2010.

Reuters says the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are predicting half the reduction in gasoline consumption caused by the new standards will be reflected in lower U.S. imports of refined fuel, and the other half will come from reduced domestic fuel refining.

For the full Reuters report on this story, click here.