Tough CAFE Rules Rejected
For the second time in two years, the U.S. Senate on July 29 rejected a proposal to conserve oil resources by requiring more efficient cars and trucks. Instead, the senators turned responsibility for setting fuel-economy standards to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which now has 30 months to issue new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
The plan, developed by Sen. Carl Levin (D – MI) and Sen. Christopher Bond (R – MO) was adopted because Levin argued that lawmakers lacked the expertise to pick a fair fuel economy target. Under the plan, regulators would be directed to assess new technology, automaker’s product plans, the potential impact on the economy, and automotive safety. Levin says his plan takes politics out of the process.
The Levin-Bond plan was approved by a vote of 66-30. It also allocates $50 million to the Department of Energy to research and develop gas-electric hybrid technology and to accelerate efforts to increase the viability of clean diesel engines. It also calls for the federal government to purchase fuel-efficient hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles for its fleets.
The Senate is still expected to vote on one more CAFE amendment. That amendment, offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D - CA), would require SUVs and other light trucks to achieve the same fuel economy standard as cars, 27.5 mpg.