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Union of Concerned Scientists: 'Out of Touch' Auto Industry Asks for Weaker Fuel Economy Standards

July 2, 2008
2:14 PM

CONTACT: Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
Aaron Huertas, 202-331-5458

'Out of Touch' Auto Industry Asks for Weaker Fuel Economy Standards
Industry Recommendations Would Hurt Auto Dealers and Consumers, Says Science Group
WASHINGTON - July 2 - Auto industry comments submitted yesterday asking the Bush administration to weaken fuel economy standards below levels the industry previously acknowledged it could meet are a brazen attempt to undermine the intent of the law passed by Congress late last year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

"Americans are paying more than four dollars for a gallon for gas and the auto industry wants to produce more gas guzzlers," said Jim Kliesch, a UCS senior engineer. "That would not only hurt consumers, it would devastate auto dealers. Dealers can't even give away gas guzzlers in a world of high gas prices."

Yesterday's comments were submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by the industry's main trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. UCS also submitted comments to the agency, urging it to strengthen standards.

"Regulators need to reject the auto industry's scare tactics and pass stronger standards based on realistic assumptions about how much better fuel economy will benefit consumers," Kliesch said. In its comments to NHTSA, UCS noted that the agency is basing its calculations on a gas price that falls about $1.50 short of current prices. (To read a summary of UCS's comments to NHTSA, go to:

Last year, the Alliance launched a disinformation campaign in an unsuccessful attempt to blunt congressional support for better fuel economy standards. The Alliances's recent comments repeated many of that campaign's economic scare tactics, Kliesch said, despite the fact that the industry eventually agreed to the standards passed by Congress.

In a December 1, 2007, statement, for example, Alliance President Dave McCurdy called the fuel economy bill "realistic and reasonable." He also said, "We believe this tough, national fuel economy bill will be good for both consumers and energy security. We support its passage." (For the statement, go to:

According to UCS calculations, achieving just the minimum 35 miles-per-gallon (mpg) fleet-wide average by 2020 would bolster the auto industry and the economy. The standards would cut oil use by 1.1 million barrels a day. For consumers, that is akin to cutting the cost of gasoline at today's prices by more than a dollar per gallon. Rather than boosting oil industry profits, drivers would spend those fuel savings locally, strengthening local economies, Kliesch explained. Further, producing fuel-efficient technologies and vehicles would generate green, domestic jobs. According to a UCS analysis, achieving a 35-mpg fleet-wide average would create 149,000 new jobs nationwide in 2020.

"The automakers should produce cars and light trucks that help, not harm, American drivers and dealerships," Kliesch said. "We need more choices in our daily lives that involve using substantially less oil. Building vehicles that go farther on a gallon of gas is the single best way to strengthen our energy security, cut pollution, and save consumers money. We need the automakers on our side."

The energy bill enacted in December directed NHTSA, an agency in the Department of Transportation, to require automakers to go beyond 35 mpg if they can achieve a higher "maximum feasible" fuel economy. When NHTSA sets fuel economy standards, it balances the cost to consumers for fuel-saving technology in new vehicles with the savings from reduced gasoline consumption, as well as benefits to society, including reducing global warming pollution and strengthening energy security. One of UCS's objections to the NHTSA draft rule is that is uses an extremely low estimate for the cost of gas, approximately $2.50 a gallon or less between 2011 and 2030 (in 2007 dollars).

According to a recent UCS report, NHTSA could set cost-effective fleet average fuel economy standards approaching 40 mpg by 2020, a target achievable even without hybrid technology. With a modest 25 percent hybrid market share in 2020, a fleet average fuel economy of 42 mpg could be achieved, while increased sales of fuel-efficient hybrids could push the average even higher.

(For UCS's report on setting more realistic fuel economy standards, go to:

Founded in 1969, the Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, UCS also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to


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