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E-M:/ FW: Bush Fuel Economy Standards Fail to Cut Oil Addiction



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Enviro-Mich message from "Rita Jack" <rita.jack@sierraclub.org>
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For Immediate Release
March 29, 2006

Contact:
David Willett, 202-675-6698


           Bush Fuel Economy Standards Fail to Cut Oil Addiction

Washington, DC:  The final light truck fuel economy standards released
today by the Bush administration fail to break America's oil addiction.
The Bush administration ignored the opportunity and obligation to cut
America's oil dependence by requiring automakers to use modern fuel-saving
technology to reduce oil consumption, curb global warming pollution, and
save consumers money at the gas pump.  While the new standards do finally
include the largest SUVs, they fail to include the largest pickup trucks,
which constitute 80 percent of the largest vehicles on the road.  Instead
of weak standards, the Bush Administration should be putting American
innovation to work by requiring automakers make all of their vehicles -
from sedans, to SUVs, to pickup trucks - go farther on a gallon of gas.

"Higher fuel economy and good jobs come from using better technology," said
Daniel Becker, Director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming program.  "By
failing to require Detroit to make significantly cleaner, more efficient
vehicles to compete with Toyota, the Bush administration is giving the Big
Three enough rope to hang themselves."

The technology exists today to make all vehicles average 40 miles per
gallon within ten years.  Taking this step would save more oil than the
United States currently imports from the entire Persian Gulf and could ever
get out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, combined.  As a result, the
average driver would save over $2,200 at the gas pump over the lifetime of
their vehicle and U.S. global warming pollution would be reduced by close
to 600 million tons.

The new standard will for the first time include large SUVs and vans
(between 8,500 - 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight) as part of the
automakers' light truck fleet.  As a result, automakers will need to ensure
that their light truck fleet average meets the fuel economy standards even
with these low fuel economy vehicles added to the mix. However, 80 percent
of the vehicles in that weight class are pick-up trucks--not SUVs, and thus
will remain exempt from any fuel economy standards.  Since the
administration continues to exclude heavy pickup trucks and is only
including a handful of the heaviest gas guzzlers, the oil savings that will
result from including these vehicles are minimal.  Using the
administration's estimate of oil savings, today's rule will save less than
two weeks worth of oil consumption at current levels over the next four
years.

"President Bush says America is addicted to oil, but this new standard is
like telling a two pack-a-day smoker to cut out one cigarette," said
Becker.

In 1975, Congress directed the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) to set new light truck fuel economy standards for
each new model year at the "maximum technically feasible level."   With
today's technology, that maximum level is at least a 40 miles per gallon
average for all cars, trucks and SUVs.  The Bush administration's standards
announced today fail to reach that goal because:

* It only increases fuel economy by 1.8 mpg over 4 years when the
technology exists to achieve a much higher improvement.
* It abandons fleet-wide averages in favor of a sized-based system that
will encourage automakers to build larger vehicles with weaker fuel economy
standards.
* While larger SUVs (over 8,500 pounds) are now included, larger pick-up
trucks will remain exempt from the standard
* It fails to recognize the additional consumer savings that will result
from higher fuel economy standards due to the recent increase in gasoline
prices.

Last year, the administration released the proposed light truck fuel
economy standards for model years 2008-2011--made final today.  In its
proposal, the administration proposed an increase of just 1.8 miles per
gallon over 4 years.  At the same time, the new proposal abandoned the
concept of a fleet-wide fuel economy standard and created a new size-based
system that divides the current light truck fleet.  While the original
proposal created six size classes, the final rulemaking released today
replaces these size 'bins' with a separate bin for each size vehicle.  This
means that there will be a separate fuel economy standard for every size of
light truck.  A size based system can create a perverse incentive,
encouraging automakers to build larger vehicles in order to qualify for
weaker fuel economy standards, resulting in lower fleet wide fuel economy.
Moving to a continuous function means that any increase in size will allow
automakers to qualify for weaker fuel economy standards for that vehicle.

Another consequence of the size-based system is that abdicates the oil
savings requirements of CAFE.  And it puts the nation's oil savings policy
in the hands of automakers to determine when they decide what size vehicles
to make.  For example, they could legally comply with the new Bush CAFE
standard if they cease making their most efficient trucks, make more
guzzlers and their overall fuel economy declines.

"The technology exists today to make all new vehicles average 40 miles per
gallon within ten years," said Becker.  "The biggest single step we can
take to save consumers money and curb our oil addiction and global warming
pollution is to make all our cars, trucks and SUVs go farther on a gallon
of gas."

###

David Willett
National Press Secretary
Sierra Club
(202) 675-6698 (w)
(202) 491-6919 (m)
david.willett@sierraclub.org
www.sierraclub.org


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