Proposed Fuel Economy Measure Shows Dick Cheney’s Heavy Hand
A new report released by Public Citizen today outlines in detail the backroom meetings held by Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and high-level White House officials to create a proposal to overhaul fuel economy standards.
Normally, specific government agencies have responsibility for drafting proposals particular to their scope of interest. When vehicle fuel economy became an issue however, many high-level officials from the White House stepped in to “assist.” Sometimes the Department of Transportation was left completely out of the loop in some of these meetings.
What’s at Stake
At the heart of the matter is a proposed change in regulation that is applied to light trucks fuel economy. The current model would be scrapped in favor of a “sliding scale” system that sets varying fuel economy standards based on the size of the vehicle. The bigger the vehicle, the lower fuel economy standards it would have to meet.
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stakes claim to the sliding scale idea, Public Citizen’s report tells a different story. After digging though massive amount of documents obtained from the Office of Management and Budget as well as NHTSA through a Freedom of Information Act request, it was discovered that e-mail and calendar records show staff from the Office of the Vice President meeting with NHTSA officials and playing a dominant role in creating the sliding scale from 2001-2003. In fact, some meetings excluded NHTSA staff entirely.
At every meeting that can be tracked down, at least one member of Cheney’s staff also was deeply involved.
A Sliding Scale Would be Disastrous
A sliding scale would only serve the auto manufacturers.
Instead of requiring the fuel economy of all vehicles in a manufacturer’s fleet to attain a specific mile-per-gallon average - thereby creating an incentive for automakers to offset gas guzzlers by producing more fuel-efficient vehicles - the new system would set mile-per-gallon targets for each size of vehicle. This would allow companies that pump out larger gas-guzzling SUVs to have a lower fuel economy target than companies producing passenger cars.
It ditches the statutory demand for the best fuel economy standards, basing public policy not on public need but, instead, on biased cost-benefit bean counting. Additionally, if a sliding scale were instituted the public will be less safe on the nation’s roads as it entrenches problems of incompatibility, given its incentives to manufacturers to continue making larger vehicles.
The only way to truly achieve more fuel efficient fleets of vehicles is through the adoption of strict corporate average fuel economy standards that leave no loop-holes for the auto industry to abuse.