Sierra Club
AUGUST 23, 2005
10:09 AM

CONTACT: Sierra Club
Brian O'Malley 202-675-6279

Bush Administration Fuel Economy Proposal Fails To Address Rising Gas Prices
New Size-Based CAFE Standards Fail to Save Consumers Money at the Gas Pump,
Cut Oil Dependence, or Curb Global Warming

WASHINGTON - August 23 - Today, the Bush administration announced plans that would weaken the nation's most successful oil-savings law. Instead of making meaningful improvements in the fuel economy of America's pickup trucks, SUVs, and other light trucks, the administration's proposal creates new loopholes that will weaken Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. This will result in Americans paying more at the gas pump, deepening the country's oil dependence, and exacerbating global warming.

"At a time when Americans are paying record prices for gas, the Bush administration has sided with its cronies in the auto industry and rejected real solutions," said Dan Becker, Director of Sierra Club's Global Warming Program. "This proposal gives automakers another excuse to not make the cars that people want - ones that use availability technology to save consumers money at the gas pump and cut pollution."

The new proposal would abandon the concept of a fleet wide fuel economy standard and create a new size-based system that would divide the current light truck fleet into six classes, with each class being determined by wheelbase (length) and track width (width). A size based system encourages automakers to build larger vehicles in order to qualify for weaker fuel economy standards, resulting in lower fleet wide fuel economy. In addition, the proposal extends existing loopholes in the CAFE law, such as exempting Hummers and other heavy vehicles over 8,500 pounds GVWR from meeting fuel economy standards.

Today's proposed rulemaking would raise the fuel economy standards for light trucks - a vehicle category which includes pickup trucks and SUVs - by a trivial 1.8 miles per gallon over the 2008 to 2011 vehicle model years. At current rates, the administration's proposal will save less than six days worth oil. This proposal falls far short of the attainable improvements that can be reached with current technology. Unfortunately, the proposed gains in fuel economy are likely to be eliminated as a result of the radical overhaul of the current structure.

"Making our cars and trucks go farther on a gallon of gas is the biggest single step we can take to save money at the gas pump, cut oil dependence, and curb global warming," continued Becker.

The technology exists today to make all vehicles average 40 miles per gallon fleet wide within ten years. Taking this step would save the average driver $2,200 in fuel savings over the lifetime of their vehicle and save the United States more oil than we currently import from the entire Persian Gulf or could ever take out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, combined, curbing global warming, and strengthening national security.

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Raises current light truck standard of 22.2 miles per gallon (mpg) in model year 2007 to a projected fleet-wide fuel economy level of 24 mpg by model year 2011. However, as a result of the structural changes to the CAFE system, there is no guarantee that the light truck fleet fuel economy will reach this level.

Divides the current light truck fleet into six size based categories based upon wheelbase (length) and track width (width). The fuel economy levels expressed are for the 2011 model year:

- Less than 43 square feet: 28.4 mpg
- 43 square feet
- 47 square feet: 27.1 mpg
- 47 square feet - 52 square feet: 24.5 mpg
- 52 square feet - 56.5 square feet: 23.3 mpg
- 56.5 square feet - 65 square feet: 21.9 mpg
- Greater than 65 square feet: 21.3 mpg

Today's announcement fails to set fuel economy standards for vehicles between 8500 to 10,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) - like the Hummer H2, Ford Excursion, and some models of the Chevy Suburban - which are currently exempt from CAFE standards.