Sierra Club Attacks Senators for Vote on CAFE, by Gretchen Randall

BACKGROUND: Today the Sierra Club issued a press release praising 38 senators for standing “up to the scare tactics and lies of the auto industry and [voting] against this do nothing amendment,” referring to the Levin-Bond amendment to the Senate energy bill, which passed 62-38. The Levin-Bond amendment would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue new fuel efficiency standards for cars within six months and for light trucks within 15 months. Both standards would be phased in gradually over the next 15 years. However, the Sierra Club favored a mandatory increase in fuel efficiency of at least 35 mpg for all vehicles.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: This amendment was the lesser of two evils. It avoided an impossible-to-meet 36 mpg mandate sponsored by Senators John Kerry & John McCain.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: While this amendment doesn’t impose exact fuel economy increases, it gives that power to a government agency and its bureaucrats. The original mandate has cost an additional 2000 deaths per year due to downsizing of vehicles. As much as we’d all like to contribute to fuel economy for our nation’s security, mandated increased fuel economy standards aren’t the answer.

DISCUSSION: The Levin-Bond amendment was passed after one proposed by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ), which would have raised Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 36 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks, vans and SUVS by 2015, was withdrawn. A later amendment introduced by Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) that exempts pickup trucks from increased fuel standards also passed.

Presently, cars must get an average of 27.5 mpg of gasoline while light trucks, minivans and SUVs must average 20.7 mpg. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report, “Effectiveness and Impact of CAFE Standards 2002” that states that moving to smaller, lighter vehicles to attain the fuel standards resulted in “an additional 13,000 to 26,000 incapacitating injuries and 97,000 to 195,000 total injuries in 1993” alone.

For more information see National Policy Analysis #393 by Gretchen Randall: “Fuel Efficiency Standards: What to Do Next?” at


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