- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Bush administration yesterday proposed tough mileage standards for automakers, who warned that the new rules would likely increase car prices for consumers.

The proposed regulations would raise the fuel efficiency of automobiles 25 percent between 2011 and 2015.

“This proposal is historically ambitious, yet achievable,” said Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters. “It will help us all breathe a little easier by reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fuel consumption and making driving a little more affordable.”

Motorists would spend $100 billion less on fuel over the lifetime of vehicles purchased between 2011 and 2015, she said.

However, a Transportation Department analysis estimated that the new rules could increase passenger car prices by an average of $649 and light trucks by an average of $979 by 2015.

“Raising fuel economy is generally associated with increases in vehicle costs,” said Jerry Roussel, Ford Motor Co.’s manager of energy, environment and safety.

Adding fuel-saving devices to engines, using more lightweight steel and adopting more alternative energy technologies are some of the most likely changes to come, said Edward Cohen, vice president of government relations for Honda North America Inc.

“There is a tremendous amount of [research and development] investment that is going to have to be done and factored into the price of the vehicle,” Mr. Cohen said.

The research is likely to build on alternative energy sources such as ethanol, fuel cells and rechargeable batteries, he said.

“The truth is, we don’t know which of these technologies is going to be the one,” he said.

The Bush administration proposal exceeds the fuel efficiency standards that Congress imposed on the auto industry last year. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires efficiency increases averaging 3.3 percent per year through 2020, compared with a 4.5 percent increase under the rules announced yesterday.

The Transportation Department is soliciting comments from automakers and consumers on the proposed rules. It plans to finalize them by the end of this year.

The changes would reduce the nation’s fuel consumption by 54.7 billion gallons through 2015, while cutting carbon-dioxide emissions by about 521 million metric tons, Mrs. Peters said.

Automakers would earn credits for exceeding Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards under the proposal. Manufacturers could sell the credits to other companies or transfer them from one class of vehicles to another, giving them some flexibility in complying with the CAFE standards. Credits also create incentives for manufacturers to exceed the standards, Mrs. Peters said.

Manufacturers said yesterday that they believe they can meet the proposed standards.

“Automakers are prepared to meet that challenge,” said David McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

MILEAGE BOOST

The Bush administration yesterday proposed to increase vehicle fuel efficiency 25 percent by 2015.

Revised Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, in miles per gallon

Model yearCarsLight trucksCombined average

201027.523.525.3

201131.225.027.8

201232.826.429.2

201334.027.830.5

201434.828.231.0

201535.728.631.6

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

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