Bush administration won’t finalize CAFE rulemaking

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The Bush administration will not finalize its rulemaking on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday, Jan. 7. DOT says the recent financial difficulties of the automobile industry will require the next administration to conduct a thorough review of matters affecting the industry.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has done significant work that will position the next U.S. Transportation Secretary to finalize a rule before the April 1 deadline, DOT says. President-Elect Barack Obama has named U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, a seven-term Republican from Illinois, as his choice to succeed current Secretary Mary Peters.

Under the proposal announced April 22, fuel efficiency standards for both passenger vehicles and light trucks would increase by 4.5 percent per year over the five-year period ending in 2015 – a 25 percent total improvement that exceeds the 3.3 percent baseline proposed by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).

For passenger cars, the proposal would increase fuel economy from the current 27.5 miles per gallon to 35.7 miles per gallon by 2015. For light trucks, the proposal calls for increases from 23.5 miles per gallon in 2010 to 28.6 miles per gallon in 2015.

All told, the proposal would save nearly 55 billion gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 521 million metric tons, while saving America’s drivers more than $100 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicles covered by the rule, DOT says.

As required by Congress, the proposed rule would allow automakers to earn credits for exceeding CAFE standards, providing an incentive for companies to exceed these goals while giving manufacturers flexibility to meet the standards without compromising their economic vitality.

Over the last seven years, the Bush administration has twice made changes to the nation’s CAFE standards, including the first since 1975 to increase mileage requirements for light trucks. In 2007, President Bush called for an energy plan that goes even further by requiring attribute-based fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles.