WASHINGTON - JUNE 6 - Top executives from Detroit's Big Three automakers are meeting with key lawmakers today to try to weaken Senate fuel economy legislation that sets a 35 mile-per-gallon (mpg) fleetwide average target in 2020. They are promoting an alternative proposal that is filled with loopholes and could lead to an increase in fuel use, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Their visit comes a week after the industry launched a million-dollar misinformation campaign attacking fuel economy increases.
The alternative bill, drafted by Michigan Sen. Carl Levin (D), would set weak goals with a longer timeframe – an approximately 32.5 mpg fleetwide average in 2025 (specifically, a 36-mpg average for cars in 2022 and a 30-mpg average for trucks in 2025). In addition, his bill would allow automakers to replace requirements with promises. At best, such a law would produce only one third the oil savings of stronger legislation, according to UCS. At worst, it would lead to an increase in fuel use if automakers fully exploit the loopholes.
"Senator Levin and the automakers are proposing to weaken a bill that should instead be strengthened to guarantee fuel economy improvements," said David Friedman, research director for the Clean Vehicles Program at UCS. "His bill sets feeble goals and gives the automakers a free pass. We need guarantees, not promises, for cutting fuel consumption."
A strengthened bill would guarantee a 35-mpg fleetwide average in 2020, Friedman said. Such a bill would save drivers nearly $50 billion in fuel costs and cut more than 215 million metric tons of global warming pollution in that year alone. The automakers contend that this proposal is unworkable, just as they claimed that adding seatbelts, airbags and catalytic converters would bankrupt the industry.
"The automakers have a long history of whining that they can't improve their products," Friedman said. "But the National Academy of Sciences concluded that conventional technology can boost the fuel economy of all vehicles, from two-seaters to four-by-fours. They can produce 34-mpg SUVs, 37-mpg minivans and 41-mpg family cars. UCS studies concluded that the auto companies can do even better."