Senators Propose Dangerous Increase in Fuel Efficiency Standards and Regulatory Phase-Out of SUVs, Minivans and Light Trucks, by Gretchen Randall

BACKGROUND: Two bills have been introduced in the Senate to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) fuel efficiency standards for autos, light trucks, SUVs and minivans. Presently, cars must get an average of 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) of gasoline while light trucks, SUVs and minivans must average 20.7 mpg.

A bill introduced by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), S. 1923, would require an average fuel economy of 36 miles per gallon by 2016 for cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs. Another bill, S.1927, introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Fritz Hollings (D-SC) would keep the two classes of vehicles but require an increase by 2013 to 38.3 mpg for cars and 32 mpg for vans, SUVs and light trucks.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: Raising CAFE standards would force consumers into smaller cars, eliminate consumer choice and result in more highway deaths.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Federal mandates on fuel efficiency rob consumers of their right to choose what size vehicle they drive. Government studies have shown that forcing people into smaller cars for fuel economy results in more traffic deaths. The government does not have the moral right to force Americans to risk and, in many thousands of cases, lose their lives in smaller vehicles.

DISCUSSION: The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report, “Effectiveness and Impact of CAFE Standards 2002” pointing out that since CAFE standards were imposed in 1975, an additional 2,000 deaths per year can be attributed to the down-sizing of cars required to meet the fuel efficiency standards. Read more about the impact of increasing CAFE standards in National Policy Analysis #393, “Fuel Efficiency Standards: What to Do Next?” at

To read the NAS report:

Senator McCain’s bill would not require greater mileage efficiency before 2007 but would eliminate the so-called “SUV loophole” by combining cars, light trucks and SUVs into one category for mileage attainment as of 2007. It also would allow automakers to buy emission credits from manufacturers in other industries to meet their targets.

The Kerry/Hollings bill would allow the two tiers of mileage requirements until 2010 when cars would have to attain 33.2 mpg while light trucks and SUVs would need to average 26.3 mpg. By 2013 the mileage standard would increase to 38.3 mpg for cars and for light trucks and SUVs to 32 pmg.

Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is quoted by Associated Press, “Make no mistake, the Senate proposals would eliminate SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks. If these proposals pass, the only place you’ll see a light truck is in a museum.”

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