Wednesday, May 3, 2006

10 States Challenge U.S. Fuel Economy Rules for SUVs and Other Light Trucks

Link: NYTimes

The NY Times reported that ten states are filing suit this week to force the Transportation Department to toughen mileage regulations for sport utility vehicles and other trucks.

The states argue the Bush administration did not rigorously analyze the environmental benefits of fuel economy regulations or consider the impact of gasoline consumption on climate change.  The plaintiff state and cities are California, New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as New York City and the District of Columbia.

The current fuel economy standard for cars is 27.5 miles a gallon, while light trucks must average 21.6 miles a gallon.  The new standard for light trucks, published on March 29, 2006, is estimated to increase to an average of 24 miles a gallon when fully implemented in 2011.  The 8.1% fuel savings from the new standard amounts to 10.7 billion gallons over the lifetime of the vehicles built while the rule is effective from 2008-2011 -- only one month of gasoline use in the US. 

The Transportation Department fuel economy rules are considerably less stringent than new California greenhouse gas emissions regulations that New York and other states intend to pass -- which have been challenged by the automotive industry.  As reported by Hybrid Cars:Hybrid Cars link

In Sep. 2004, California regulators approved a plan to drastically reduce vehicle emissions related to global warming over the next 11 years. "It's the most challenging  regulation that's ever been proposed by the California Air Resources Board, or even the E.P.A." said Thomas C. Austin, a top research consultant on the regulation. The new regulation, which could affect as much as 30 percent of the U.S. market (not just California), would phase in from 2009 to 2016. It would require the auto industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its new fleets by approximately 30 percent.        

The response from automakers, Honda included, is that they don't have the technology to make this happen. Auto lobbyists also object on the basis that they can't manufacture vehicles based on two or more different emissions standards, and that a single fuel economy standard must be set at the federal level for all 50 states. The issue gets more complicated because standards for other tailpipe emissions, such as carbon monoxide  and particulate matter, are indeed set at the state level. Can greenhouse gas pollution be regulated like a tailpipe emission or is it a surrogate for fuel economy, as the automakers contend?


As expected, in early Dec. 2004, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno by 13 California car dealerships and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, seeking an injunction to halt California from enacting the plan. The alliance includes G.M., DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Volkswagen, and even hybrid-makers Ford and Toyota. The Alliance of International Automobile Manufacturers, which includes Honda,           Toyota, and 16 other carmakers and suppliers, also joined the lawsuit.        


Honda is the only car company advocating for increases in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which would set a single standard for fuel economy more in line with the California proposals, as a resolution to the standoff.

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