US Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta announced yesterday new proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks, including SUV’s. The Secretary noted the administration proposal is expected to save 10 billion gallons of gasoline in the next four years. We currently consume 11B gal/mo, so this is a savings of, uh…1.89%. So, while this is a teeny weeny step in the right direction of greater fuel efficiency, some Democrats and Environmentalists reacted predictably. “At a time when Americans are paying record prices for gas, the Bush administration has sided with its cronies in the auto industry and rejected real solutions,” said Dan Becker, a Sierra Club’s director.
I think that’s somewhat of a cheap shot since more aggressive standards would cost some US autoworkers jobs in the short-term. It’s a difficult issue, but I do wish the proposal was stronger over a longer period of time to give our domestic manufacturers more time to re-tool and meet tougher standards. Sounding a little more reasonable, Mr. Becker crystalized the issue, “Making our cars and trucks go farther on a gallon of gas is the biggest single step we can take to save money at the gas pump, cut oil dependence, and curb global warming.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will take comments on the proposal for 90 days, and plans to issue the final rule by April 2006. Their site has the complete proposal and directions of how to submit your comments.
In answering critics, the administration often cites safety as a reason to proceed slowly on increased fuel efficiency. They contend that lighter, fuel-efficient cars are dangerous. Well, yeah, if they get broadsided by an 8600 pound Hummer… Not taking any chances, Secretary Mineta showed up to yesterdays Los Angeles press conference in a silver Lincoln Navigator. It weighs over 5800 pounds and gets about 15mpg. Nice touch, Norm.