Passenger vehicle mileage standards included in energy bill

| 12/3/2007

U.S. House and Senate leaders have negotiated an agreement that could raise fuel economy standards in cars, SUVs and light trucks by 2020. The agreement does not include changes in standards for medium-duty or heavy-duty trucks.

A conference committee of the House and Senate including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, and Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, has agreed to include a 35 mpg fleet-wide standard for automakers in an energy bill the House and Senate aim to pass and send to President Bush by the end of the year. Before it can be sent to the president, the conference committee must agree on a final version and it must be sent back to both chambers for approval.

The government has not amended the corporate average fuel economy standards, known as CAFE standards, since 1985 for cars. Standards for SUVs and light trucks have seen fractional increases in recent years.

Current standards enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency are 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.5 mph for SUVs and light trucks. Fuel standards are calculated at 55 mph on a flat test track.

Dingell, a longtime friend of the auto industry, has resisted an increase in mileage standards for years, leading up to the accord struck with Pelosi during the weekend of Dec. 1.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, introduced legislation in May that included the 35 mpg standard for cars and light trucks. Months of debate and lobbying followed as the automakers fought the 35 mpg standard.

A provision to require a 4 percent per year increase in mileage for heavy trucks was struck from the bill.

Truck manufacturers told Land Line at the time that fleet applications are varied in the trucking industry and that a strict fuel mileage standard would be difficult to achieve. A mandate for trucks would also add thousands of dollars to the sticker price.

With fuel prices soaring, truck manufacturers are already taking steps to increase efficiency without compromising the needs of particular truck applications, Truck Manufacturers Association President Robert M. Clarke said at the time.

To reach their goal of sending an energy bill to the president by year’s end, House and Senate negotiators continue to hammer out additional details, including provisions for alternative fuels and other potential ways to reduce greenhouse gases.

– By David Tanner, staff writer