Bush Light Truck Fuel Standards Rev Up Collision With States
BALTIMORE, Maryland, March 30, 2006 (ENS) - New fuel economy standards for light trucks announced Wednesday will save 10.7 billions of gallons of fuel and include the largest sport utility vehicles for the first time, said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. But environmentalists called the new standards too weak, and eight state attorneys general accused the Bush administration of attacking their regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles.
The changes to the fuel economy standards represent the second time the Bush administration has increased the mileage standards for light trucks and the first complete reform of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program for pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and minivans since its inception in 1979, said Mineta.
"The new standards represent the most ambitious fuel economy goals for light trucks ever developed in the program’s 27 year history," Mineta said. "And more importantly, they close loopholes that have long plagued the current system."
Mineta said that by including the largest SUVs and strengthening the final miles per gallon target, the new rules save two billion more gallons of fuel than an earlier proposal released in August 2005.
Mineta said the standards would be calculated in a new way. "The final standards include individual miles per gallon goals for all passenger trucks sold in the United States," he said. "That is because the current approach to light truck standards is too easy to get around. There is no incentive in the current structure to encourage automakers to apply fuel saving technology to their largest and most profitable vehicles."
The new standards set individual miles per gallon goals for all passenger trucks sold in the United States, requiring manufacturers to install fuel saving technology on all passenger trucks.
"Under the new CAFE system," he said, "manufacturers will have to add fuel saving technology to all passenger trucks. Not only is this good for fuel economy, but it is also good for safety. Our new standards will encourage automakers to use cutting edge, fuel saving technology instead of making weaker, lighter vehicles that put passengers at risk during crashes."
In addition, the light truck fuel economy standards will save more than 250 million gallons a year just by including the largest sport utility vehicles on the market today, those that weigh between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds, the secretary said.
Mineta said these large SUVs will be included in the CAFE program starting in 2011, adding that, "we worked hard to make sure that no single SUV gets a free pass under these new standards."
The new fuel economy standards also strengthen the miles per gallon target for light trucks, Secretary Mineta said. The light truck targets will increase from 21.6 to 24 miles per gallon, the highest level ever for the program.
Mineta said that automakers will now have to factor in 240,000 of the least efficient SUVs for the first time.
"We took a good, close look at automakers’ plans, examined new technology that is in use or under development – like hybrids and the latest generation of diesel burning engines – and decided that we could ask more of the manufacturers than we proposed last August," Mineta said.
He said that the new standards mean that some light trucks will now have to meet a fuel economy target of 28.4 milers per gallon, which is higher than today’s standard for passenger cars.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association of the nine largest car and light truck makers, said the new standards would be "a challenge, even with all the new fuel-efficient technologies on sale today."
The Alliance - which represents BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, GM, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, and Volkswagen - said that under the new rule, nationwide fuel economy standards will have increased for seven straight years - from model year 2005 to 2011.
Automakers are selling more than 100 models that achieve over 30 miles per gallon highway, and Alliance members are developing and introducing diverse advanced-technology vehicles, including hybrids, clean diesel, hydrogen-powered autos and vehicles that run on alternative fuels like ethanol, the association points out.
As part of their efforts to enhance energy security, Alliance members say they are offering for sale more than a million of these advanced, alternative-fuel autos in 2006.
"Automakers hope the agency's final rule will balance highway safety and improved fuel economy, while preserving jobs and minimizing negative economic impacts, the Alliance said. "A good balance of safety, higher fuel economy, and jobs benefits all Americans."
But the final rule is opposed by eight state attorneys general. In comments filed November 22, 2005 with the U.S. Department of Transportation, they object that the administration's rule includes preamble language contending that its fuel economy standards preempt California's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from passenger vehicles, which 10 other states have also adopted.
The California standards would cut greenhouse gas emissions emissions from new vehicles by 30 percent by the 2016 model year.
The rule states, "NHTSA [National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration] has concluded that the State GHG standard, to the extent that it regulates tailpipe CO2 emissions, would frustrate the objectives of Congress in establishing the CAFE program and conflict with the efforts of NHTSA ..." (p. 327) http://www.net.org/documents/2006_OMB_OfficialVersion.pdf
The attorneys general - representing California, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and New York City - maintain that the California emission standards do not regulate fuel economy, but operate alongside the federal mileage standards.
Under the Clean Air Act, Congress gave California specific authority to set auto emission standards that are more stringent than federal law. Other states are also guaranteed the right to adopt those California standards if they have one or more areas that do not comply with federal ambient air quality standards.
According to the state attorneys general the administration's statements are an inappropriate attack on the regulations and authority of states. They say the statements are irrelevant to the rule and legally incorrect.
Click here for a copy of the letter written by the attorneys general to the Department of Transportation.
Shannon Heyck-Williams, deputy director of the Global Warming Campaign of the National Environmental Trust, said, "The administration's meddling in state global warming measures, gerrymandering of weak mileage standards, and continuing exemption of the most inefficient vehicles does nothing to move the country toward the president's stated goal of ending our oil addiction."
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) said by announcing a "weak final rule," the Bush administration has failed to protect consumers from rising prices.
"Instead of breaking America’s oil habit, the Bush administration’s rule installs a mere speed bump on the dead end road of oil addiction," said U.S. PIRG Legislative Director Anna Aurilio.
The final rule increases overall light truck fuel economy by less than eight percent over four years and contains a revised structure that allows automakers to increase the size of vehicles to meet lower standards, Aurilio pointed out.
And while the rule regulates SUVs and passenger vans heavier than 8,500 pounds, it continues to exempt the heaviest pickup trucks. The rule also allows manufacturers to avoid meeting the new standards by making their light trucks longer, wider and heavier, she said.
Last fall, nearly 7,000 citizens submitted comments to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, requesting that the administration reduce oil demand by increasing fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon over the next 10 years, a much higher standard than the 24 to 28.4 miles per gallon required in the final rule announced Wednesday.
"Increasing miles per gallon standards to 40 miles per gallon would reduce oil consumption by 20 percent, save American consumers billions at the gas pumps, and reduce global warming pollution," said Aurilio. "With gasoline prices at an all time high of $2.34 a gallon, and with fuel economy at a 23-year low, it’s time for the administration to reduce America’s oil dependence," she said.
Roland Hwang, vehicles policy director with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called the new 24 mpg standard "anemic," and said it would "do more harm than good."
"Simply by raising the fuel economy standard for SUVs and other light trucks by just one mile per gallon per year over the next five years - to 27.2 mpg by model year 2012," said Hwang, "we could save one million barrels of oil per day by 2020. That's twice as much oil as we buy from Iraq, and three-quarters of our daily imports from Saudi Arabia."
|International Hydropower Association accused of excluding indigenous peoples and supporting Taib’s corruption USCC Releases Model Rule for Composting Operations ADA Carbon Solutions Announces New Hire of Vice President of Sales and Key Executive Promotions|