Bush Administration’s Fuel Economy StandardsBenefit Automakers, Ignore Consumer Needs

July 1, 2008  

Bush Administration’s Fuel Economy Standards Benefit Automakers, Ignore Consumer Needs

Fuel Efficiency Proposal Set Too Low; Economic Models Use Flawed Data

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bush administration’s proposed fuel economy standard for vehicles fails to deliver much relief to consumers dealing with skyrocketing gas prices and makes far too many concessions to the auto industry, Public Citizen said in comments submitted today to federal regulators.

Rather than push the auto industry to produce the most fuel-efficient vehicles possible, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposes a minimum standard for automakers that calls for their passenger cars and light trucks to meet a combined average of only 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020. While the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for NHTSA to set a minimum standard of 35 mpg, it does not prevent the agency from developing a stricter one if economic conditions call for it.

The recent dramatic increases in gas prices makes it imperative that NHTSA reconsider its cost-benefit models and propose the maximum, feasible fuel standard, Public Citizen said. The 35 mpg target is well below what is technologically feasible. NHTSA’s own analysis shows that automakers could achieve a fleetwide fuel economy standard of 37 mpg by the year 2015. More fuel-efficient vehicles would also aid in the fight against global warming by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions U.S. vehicles produce.

“Shame on the Bush administration for proposing such a weak fuel economy standard for vehicles,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook, who served as NHTSA administrator from 1977 to 1981. “Automakers couldn’t have gotten a better deal if they wrote the rule themselves.”

NHTSA’s proposal is flawed throughout, Public Citizen wrote. For example, the agency’s economic models assume gas prices of $2.31 a gallon for model year 2015, when today’s gas prices are already well over $4 a gallon. The agency also fails to re-evaluate its definition of passenger cars and light trucks, continuing to classify many vehicles as light trucks when NHTSA concedes they “are manufactured primarily for transporting passengers.”

READ Public Citizen’s comments.