Washington, DC- Last week President Bush called for action on increasing the fuel economy standards of cars, but today the stall began. His own Administration official refused to outline any specific plan for increasing fuel economy standards. Five years ago the National Academy of Sciences released a study demonstrating that with existing technology U.S. automobiles could increase fuel economy standards to 33 miles per gallon (mpg) in ten years without adversely impacting safety. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta indicated that the Bush Administration is not willing to commit to the National Academy of Sciences number or any specific number for increasing the miles per gallon standard for automobiles. The Secretary cited obstacles to immediately addressing fuel economy standards including the technical feasibility, safety concerns and industry feasibility – all issues that were addressed by the National Academy of Sciences study.
Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a co-author of a bipartisan bill to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, pushed the Administration officials for a specific fuel economy standards goal, “On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy issued a challenge to the Congress and the country, ‘of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.’ Eight years later, the challenge was met. Maybe it was rocket science, but it took Presidential leadership and a can-do attitude made it happen. Today, the question on the table is, will this President issue a similar challenge to the nation, in the next ten years – can we put a man or woman in a fuel efficient car, send him or her to his destination and return him or her safely to his home?” Thus far, President Bush has claimed that it isn’t possible. After all, that was just rocket science – this is auto mechanics!
When Rep. Markey and other Democratic Members pushed Secretary Mineta whether or not the Bush Administration would support an effort increasing fuel economy standards to a specific number, the Secretary said he “could not give a definitive number”.
Rep. Markey called on the Administration to respond to the pending energy crisis outlined by Energy Secretary Bodman by setting new higher fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.
“I call on the President to use his authority and issue a challenge to America – tell us what you think we can do to increase fuel economy in the next 10 years that can help compensate for the shameful neglect Republicans have given this issue over the past 10 years. Give us your proposal.
“Pick a number, Mr. President. Don’t duck and don’t pass the buck. Pick a number.
“We are not missing Presidential authority on fuel economy standards – we are missing Presidential leadership,” Markey concluded.
In response to questioning from members of the Energy and Commerce Committee on the Department of Transportation’s timeline for circulating fuel economy recommendations, Secretary Mineta said that he had not yet discussed fuel economy standards with leaders of the automotive industry and he also indicated that the Department of Transportation is ‘saddled’ with providing the industry 18 months notice on fuel economy proposals.
In 1975, in response to the oil shock that doubled the price of gasoline from 30 cents to 60 cents a gallon, President Gerald Ford mandated that fuel economy had to double from 13 miles per gallon to almost 27 miles per gallon by 1985. During the next 10 years, U.S. oil imports fell from nearly 36% of the oil we consumed to 27.3% by 1985. But the fleet wide average fuel economy peaked in 1987 at 26.2 miles per gallon, and has now fallen back to under 25 miles per gallon.
During Committee, Floor and Conference action on the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Rep. Markey offered amendments that would have achieved a meaningful increase in CAFE standards. The provisions, aimed at reducing the U.S. dependence on foreign oil, faced significant opposition from the automotive industry and were defeated in the House of Representatives. Rep. Markey is also a co-author of H.R. 3762 – a bill that would raise fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks from the current level of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 33 mpg over the next 10 years. By 2025, this move would save 2.6 million barrels of oil each day.
For more information regarding the Rep. Markey’s work in the area of energy and the environment, please see http://markey.house.gov/
FACT CHECK ON BUSH ADMINISTRATION CLAIMS ON FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS
Today’s Washington Post cited an unnamed White House official who admitted that the idea to address fuel economy standards was come up with “on the fly.” Under pressure from public outcries at the President’s Energy Policy, the White House has forgotten to check the Facts on Fuel Economy standards.
Bush Claim: I DON’T HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO RAISE CAFE STANDARDS FOR CARS
FACT: The U.S. Code provides authority for The President to set CAFE standards for cars:
(c) Amending passenger automobile standards.
(1) Subject to paragraph (2) of this subsection, the Secretary of Transportation may prescribe regulations amending the standard under subsection (b) of this section for a model year to a level that the Secretary decides is the maximum feasible average fuel economy level for that model year. Section 553 of title 5 applies to a proceeding to amend the standard. However, any interested person may make an oral presentation and a transcript shall be taken of that presentation.
Bush Claim: RAISING CAFE STANDARDS IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY
FACT: The 2001 National Academy of Sciences report on CAFE Standards concluded that existing technologies could be used to reduce fuel consumption:
Finding 5. Technologies exist that, if applied to passenger cars and light-duty trucks, would significantly reduce fuel consumption within 15 years.
Bush Claim: RAISING CAFE STANDARDS WOULD THREATEN VEHICLE SAFETY
FACT: At a February 9, 2005 hearing in the House Committee on Science, Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) asked auto industry experts – including Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers representative Michael Stanton – if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “the only way to increase CAFE standards is to make vehicles lighter and therefore less safe.” All three said they disagreed.
Bonus Fact Check: THE CHENEY ENERGY PLAN RECOMMENDED INCREASING CAFE STANDARDS:
“The NEPD Group recommends that the President direct the Secretary of Transportation to:
• Review and provide recommendations on establishing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards with due consideration of the National Academy of Sciences study to be released in July 2001.” [p. 4-11:]
“Opportunities for reducing oil demand in the transportation sector include increasing conservation, vehicle efficiency, and alternative fuels...For example, an increase in the average fuel economy of the on-road vehicle fleet by three miles per gallon would save one million barrels of oil a day, or about half of the global shortfall between supply and demand that triggered the oil price increases since 1998.” [emphasis added, p. 4-10:]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Tara McGuinness
May 3, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Tara McGuinness