Stagnant Mileage Demands Better Answers From Congress Administration

July 18, 2006

Washington, D.C. — The average fuel economy of U.S. autos will remain unchanged from 2005 to 2006 according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), despite high gasoline prices and better technology entering the market, including hybrid vehicles, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. EPA released its annual “Light-Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends” report on Monday. “The lesson is that better technology alone won’t get us the reductions we need in oil consumption and global warming gases. Congress and the Administration must set tougher targets for higher fuel economy,” said ACEEE’s Transportation Program Director Therese Langer.

According to the projections, a slight gain in light truck fuel economy this year will be offset by a decline in car fuel economy, the result of a 3% shift in market share from mid-size to large cars and an accompanying increase in horsepower. Zero-to-sixty acceleration time will drop 0.3 seconds.  This use of technology improvements for power and acceleration is canceling out modest gains in mileage, which indicates that without stronger mileage standards, fuel economy will continue to stagnate.

The Bush Administration stated earlier this year that it will consider raising fuel economy standards for cars only if given the authority to create a class-based regulatory scheme, as it recently created for light trucks. “Today’s EPA data provide a perfect example of why a fuel economy regulation based on size classes with no target for fleet-wide improvement will not get the job done,” Langer said. “If we’re running in place on fuel efficiency with gasoline at $3.20, leaders in Washington should be convinced by now that we need stronger mileage requirements.”

Bills to substantially increase CAFE standards and to commit to reduced oil consumption were introduced on both the House and Senate sides this year, but none has progressed far.  “We need to end Washington’s traffic jam on fuel economy,” said ACEEE’s Policy Director Bill Prindle. “The EPA data show that markets alone will not cure our oil addiction; we need political leadership to solve this problem.”