the deal on fuel efficiency

It looks like Pelosi and Dingell have come to a compromise on fuel efficiency standards that both can live with. The proposed legislation, the first of its kind in almost 30 years, is being met with cautious optimism by environmentalists, who have recently coalesced around a goal of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. While that goal made it through to the final legislation, concessions were made. The questions now is, just how big are the loopholes? And, how aggressively will the American automakers work to exploit them? And, of course, all of this is moot if Bush doesn’t sign it into law first… Here’s a clip from the “Detroit Free Press”:

…(The deal) will force U.S. automakers to make a 40% improvement in their vehicles’ mileage to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The proposal sets those targets, which the industry loudly opposed for much of this year, as the floor for federal regulators: They cannot set lower standards, but could impose a higher goal if they see fit.

“Not everybody is satisfied with everything, but the package is generally a good one,” Dingell said Saturday. “It is one which will enable the auto industry to continue to produce high-quality cars for the American consumer.”

Environmentalists and congressional Democrats hailed the accord as the most significant move on fuel rules since they were first passed in 1975. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated the plan would save consumers $22 billion by 2020, while cutting oil imports by 1.1 million barrels per day, or roughly half of the U.S. daily oil gulp from the Persian Gulf…

But the deal also gives automakers some room to maneuver. Not all of them will have to meet the 35-m.p.g. industry-wide goal, and Detroit companies might have a lower number. Regulators will count cars and trucks separately, preserving to some degree the so-called SUV loophole that has helped Detroit over the past few years.

The rules also would allow automakers credits for renewable fuels and a new ability to trade gains in one class of vehicle for shortfalls in the other. Those clauses will “help automakers balance the natural ups and downs of the product cycle,” said Dave McCurdy, head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group that includes General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC and Toyota Motor Co…

Congress has not changed the original target of 27.5 m.p.g. for cars since 1975. Automakers are expected to average 26.4 m.p.g. for all 2007 models…

And under the compromise, federal regulators will set a different goal for each automaker that adds up to 35 m.p.g. in 2020. David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists said automakers that rely on larger vehicles, such as Detroit companies, would have to hit about a 33 m.p.g. standard, while Honda or Volkswagen would have to hit 37 m.p.g. to 39 m.p.g. by 2020.

With cars and trucks measured separately, the rules also will allow automakers to earn credits for surpassing the standards in one class that can offset shortfalls in the other — something current rules don’t allow. Automakers can keep their credits for five years, and borrow against credits they expect to earn up to three years in the future.

Friedman said while environmental groups were wary of giving automakers too much leeway, the 35-m.p.g. goal “should guard against automaker attempts to game the system.”

“If you give the industry a loophole, they’ll drive a Hummer right through it,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to get to 35 m.p.g. … It’s a great step on their part for admitting they have the technology to do it”…

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5 Comments

  1. egpenet
    Posted December 3, 2007 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I can’t find the details … but there is ALSO a big loophole on emissions.

    Still looking …

    But it seems that the co promise focuses on fuel efficiency while ignoring the significant asthma-related increases in all of our major metropolitan areas.

    Not clear how that will work … chemically … or politically.

  2. Stephan
    Posted December 7, 2007 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    It passed the House.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/06/AR2007120601631.html?wpisrc=newsletter

    Bush will veto it though because it cuts giveaways to big oil.

  3. Edward Jones Smith
    Posted December 7, 2007 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    As expected, it stalled in the Senate.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/07/washington/07cnd-energy.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

  4. egpenet
    Posted December 7, 2007 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Markey from Massachusetts said he expected to have to make some comprimises … not on the 35mpg numbers … but in other areas. We’ll see. I was pleased to see that Pelosi wasn’t about to let Dingell dangle any longer.

  5. Gillian Caldwell
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Dear Friends,

    Last Thursday the House of Representatives passed an energy bill that would reduce carbon emissions and begin to move our country in the right direction on energy policy. On Friday, the Senate voted down the House version of the bill; a majority supported it but not the 60 needed to prevent a Republican filibuster.

    In the words of the Washington Post, “the failure to close debate was a victory for the major oil companies, Southeastern utilities and coal-mining firms that had opposed the legislation.”

    On Monday, Tuesday and all next week we need to bombard the U.S Senate with calls, faxes, emails and visits. We must let those who voted the wrong way know that at a minimum they must pass a bill that ensures an increase in fuel efficiency standards, supports renewable energy via a 15% by 2020 Renewable Electricity Standard for utilities, and extends an important Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit. The American people want clean energy; indeed, a recent Zogby poll found that 77% of Republicans want more of our energy to come from renewable sources.

    In the words of Anna Aurillo of Environment America, “Americans should not tolerate leaders who are defending the status quo on energy. At a time when oil prices are at more than $90/barrel, the public deserves a 21st century clean, green energy policy that will substantially reduce global warming pollution while saving consumers money.”

    If you have a Republican Senator, you should contact them unless they are Senators Collins (Me), Snowe (Me), Coleman (Mn), Thune (SD) or Smith (Or). They all voted the right way on Friday.

    Democrats who voted the wrong way and need to be called are Bayh (In), Landrieu (La) and Byrd (WV).

    Republicans who are more likely to be responsive and most in need of contact are: Ensign (Nv), Grassley (Ia), Lugar (In), Brownback (Ks), Corker (Tn), Alexander (Tn), Stevens (Ak), Murkowski (Ak), Sununu (NH), Gregg (NH), Warner (Va) and Martinez (Fl).

    You can call any U.S. Senator at 202-224-3121 or you can find their direct phone number here:
    http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

    Finally, here’s a sample script, although it’s best if you put it in your own words: “Hello, I’m________, and I’m calling to urge that Senator___________ support a 15% by 2020 Renewable Electricity Standard for utilities, an extension of the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit, and inclusion of an increase in fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. For the good of the economy, our pocketbooks and the environment, we want a good energy bill to be passed now.”

    Let’s work hard this week to get an energy bill that begins to move us in the right direction!

    In collaboration,

    The 1Sky Team

    http://www.1sky.org

    info@1sky.org

    (ph) 301.920.1444

    (fax) 301.270.6816

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