The Senate Energy Committee, which is currently drafting the Senate’s version of the national Energy bill, on Wednesday voted 7-15 to reject an amendment to increase fuel efficiency standards for light trucks and SUVs.
Under the failed proposal offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), SUVs and other light trucks would have to meet the same 27.5 mpg rule for passenger cars by 2011, up from a current 21 mpg for light trucks, an increase of 31%.
In 2002, the Bush administration ordered an increase in the standard for light trucks to 22.2 miles a gallon by 2007—an increase of 6%.
Using fuel consumption rather than mileage as a basis for comparison shows Feinstein’s proposal to be less aggressive than 31% makes it sound.
The baseline mileage of 21 mpg is equivalent to 11.2 liters of fuel consumed per 100 km, or 4.76 gallons/100 miles. The Feinstein proposal of 27.5 mpg is equivalent to 8.55 liters/100km, or 3.63 gallons/100 miles. That works out to a decrease in fuel consumption of 23.6%.
Opponents said imposing a higher fuel standard would place further burdens on US automakers that are already suffering financially, endangering thousands of high-paying jobs. They also said the government should not dictate what vehicles consumers buy.
“I think mothers and fathers can make those decisions themselves,” said Republican George Allen of Virginia. (Reuters)
Feinstein argued that while consumers are queuing to buy hybrids, US companies are saddled with growing inventories of gas-guzzling SUVs.
“They (U.S. automakers) have essentially refused to listen to the marketplace,” she said. “Toyota is going to eat their lunch.”
More fuel efficiency amendments will undoubtedly be proposed when the debate on the energy moves to the full Senate. Assuming a bill is passed in the Senate, it will have to be reconciled with the version that came out of the House.