Senate Running On Empty on Fuel Economy

Release Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2002

The Alliance to Save Energy today slammed the Senate's 62 to 38 vote today stripping major energy legislation of meaningful fuel economy standards and demanded that the bill (S. 517) not leave the Senate without addressing America's oil dependence.

"Even as American troops are advancing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Senators are retreating from the auto industry here at home," said Alliance President David M. Nemtzow. "With America vulnerable to disruption of oil supplies from an explosive Middle East, a majority of Senators caved in to intense lobbying by the auto industry and put special interests over national interests. This was a complete abdication of responsibility and a betrayal of their rhetoric embracing energy policy."

While America's cars and light trucks account for over 40 percent of U.S. oil consumption, vehicle fuel economy in the U.S. is at a 21 year low. Yet, our oil consumption continues to increase - U.S. oil consumption rose 15 percent in the last decade while U.S. oil imports rose 28 percent.

The Levin-Bond Amendment does nothing to guarantee oil savings. Levin-Bond not only fails to set up a mile per gallon target, but also does not offer a timeframe to achieve either oil savings or fuel efficiency goals. Additional oils savings was lost through Levin-Bond's extension of the "dual-fuel" vehicle program that allows cars designed to run on alternative fuels (but rarely ever run on these fuels) to gain CAFE credits.

The Alliance also criticized the Senate's adoption of an amendment by Senator Zell Miller exempting pick-up trucks from an increase in fuel economy standards. "This action moves us backward rather than forward in the important national effort to reduce oil consumption by vehicles," Nemtzow said.