WASHINGTON -The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced a miniscule change in fuel economy standards
for light trucks. According to a Union of Concerned Scientists analysis of the plan, the new standards will save less than two weeks
of gasoline each year over the next two decades.
"After the Bush administration acknowledged our oil addiction, one might have expected a slam dunk, but this is an air ball," said
David Friedman, research director for the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The administration
squandered an important opportunity to treat our oil addiction."
The NHTSA standards would require SUVs, pickups and minivans (so-called light trucks) to increase their fuel economy by 1.8 mpg by
2011 (i.e. to 24.0 mpg in 2011), beginning with model year 2008. This is essentially a repackaged version of their August fuel
economy proposal. The administration could have saved one million barrels of oil per day in 2025 if it had simply raised the new
standards to 26 mpg by 2011 and applied the standards to all light trucks. This would have met 20 percent of the president's target
of cutting oil imports from the Middle East by 75 percent by 2025.
"Fighting America's oil addiction with these standards is like fighting lung cancer by smoking 49 cigarettes a day instead of 50,"
said Don MacKenzie, vehicles engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Automakers have technology on their shelves right now
that could cost-effectively improve the efficiency of light trucks to 26 or 27 mpg, at least double the increase that NHTSA
The rule also included heavier SUVs and vans (medium duty passenger vehicles - MDPV) for the first time but ignored heavier pickups.
If they had included heavier pickups like the Ford F-350 and Chevrolet Silverado 3500, NHTSA could have saved four times as much as
they did from including MDPVs.
"If NHTSA can help Hummer H2 owners save a few cents on gasoline, they could have helped farmers, small businesses and other
consumers who rely on heavy pickups," said MacKenzie.
The standards announced by NHTSA today were set at effectively the same level as they proposed last August when they relied on
gasoline prices that were a dollar less than what we are paying today. This is especially surprising since NHTSA replaced that
faulty data with a still modest gasoline price of about $2 per gallon. With higher gasoline prices, NHTSA's own methodology should
have led to a significantly higher standard.
"Despite two hurricanes, a pledge to end our oil addiction, and higher gasoline prices, NHTSA failed to strengthen the standard any
further than their last proposal," said Friedman. "If this is how our nation is going to get serious about our oil addiction,
Americans should buckle up for continued pain at the pump."
The fuel economy of the new U.S. light truck is currently at 21.3 mpg, leaving the average fuel economy of our cars and trucks lower
than it was 20 years ago and helping to push U.S. oil dependence to an all-time high. The U.S. now depends on imports for 60 percent
of our oil. According to UCS research, the US sends nearly $500,000 to other countries every minute just to keep our oil flowing.
Founded in 1969, the Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit partnership of scientists and citizens combining rigorous
scientific analysis, innovative policy development and effective citizen advocacy to achieve practical environmental solutions.
UCS's Clean Vehicles Program develops and promotes strategies to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of the U.S. transportation