DOT Takes Baby Step to Lower Light Truck Oil Consumption: Much Stronger Action Needed

December 13, 2002

Media Contact(s):

Wendy Koch, 202-507-4753, Senior Director, Marketing & Communications

Washington, D.C. — The Bush Administration has proposed a 1.5 mile-per-gallon increase in the fuel economy standard for light trucks over the years 2005 through 2007. “This action is a modest but useful step forward,” stated Steven Nadel, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Executive Director, “but it’s a drop in the gas tank compared to what is possible and needed.”

"The increase is just not of a size that reflects the ability and need the United States has today to get a grip on car and light truck oil consumption," said Therese Langer, ACEEE Transportation Program Director. "Assuming no further growth in the share of light truck sales relative to cars, this would put average automobile fuel economy in 2007 where it was in 1982." For a figure showing car and light truck oil consumption for 2000 through 2020, see /press/fuelecon2002.pdf.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed rule would save less gasoline than simply eliminating the loophole that allows automakers credit for producing "flex-fuel" vehicles that can run on ethanol, but seldom do.

Gasoline savings through 2010 from the proposed increase would be comparable to the 5 billion gallon savings called for in last year's House Energy Bill. That provision would have eliminated only about 2 days' worth of automobile fuel consumption per year, and was widely regarded as a do-nothing measure to divert attention from the fuel economy issue.

The Bush Administration's current Strategic Plan for the U.S. Department of Energy states as a goal the dramatic reduction of our dependence on foreign oil. As an indicator of success, the plan targets the availability, by 2020, of vehicles that would have double the fuel economy of today's vehicles and would pay back any higher purchase price in fuel savings within three years. "That's a good, achievable goal for new vehicles in 2020," commented Langer. "But continuing at the rate of improvement in the proposed rule, we won't get there."

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for a 60-day period.