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CLIMATE: Bush's Doltish Fuel Efficiency Proposal August 25, 2005 9:27 AM

CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS TODAY
Bush's Doltish Fuel Efficiency Proposal
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August 24, 2005
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, ClimateArk

President Bush has announced his administration's plans to raise fuel
efficiency of most sport-utility vehicles, minivans, and pickups, and as
expected it is a joke.  This first overhaul of industry standards in 30
years continues to exclude the largest behemoths such as Hummers and the
Excursion from any mileage requirements.  Under the plan a light truck
which must get 21.6 miles per gallon in 2006 would have to get between
21.9 and 23.3 miles per gallon in 2011.  Ooh, aah - A whole 1.3% to 7.8%
increase when the potential for energy efficiency in automobiles is so
much more.

This proposal will do nothing to slow America’s voluminous oil
consumption.  It would actually intensify America’s contribution to global
warming, undermining state lead efforts to more substantially increase
fuel efficiency to address climate change.

One does not know whether to cry, laugh or seethe with anger at the
failure of the Toxic Texan to come to grips with our oil dependency, and
thus oil consumption’s impacts upon climate change and our national
security.  Together the rules appear to give incentives to the Detroit
dinosaur car manufacturers to build yet more monster SUVs rather than
sensible, safe and efficient vehicles.  Bush's failure to push for
meaningful fuel-economy standards in a time of war, energy scarcity and
climate change shows him to be the oil addled dolt he is.
g.b.

*******************************
RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:
 
ITEM #1
Title: Tighter rules planned on light-truck fuel use
Heavier vehicles to remain exempt
Source: Copyright 2005, Boston Globe
Date: August 24, 2005

WASHINGTON -- As gas prices hit record levels for the third consecutive
week, the Bush administration announced plans yesterday to force
automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of most sport-utility vehicles,
minivans, and pickups starting in 2008 -- the first overhaul of industry
standards in 30 years.

But heavier vehicles like Hummers, big pickups, and full-sized vans will
continue to be exempt from the standards, and environmental groups said
the new regulations will have little impact on the nation's gas usage
because they will encourage companies to produce more gas-guzzlers.

With a busy freeway as a backdrop, Transportation Secretary Norman Y.
Mineta announced the changes in Atlanta, saying they will save Americans
10 billion gallons of fuel over the first four years the regulations are
in place. The Transportation Department estimated the fuel economy of all
''light trucks" -- including most SUVs, pickups, and minivans, which now
represent more than half of all US auto sales -- will be boosted by about
8 percent.

''The cost of filling up is hitting many family budgets very hard," Mineta
said. ''This is a plan that will save gas and result in less pain at the
pump for motorists."

But environmental groups and some Democrats said the new rules will do
practically nothing to address gas prices or the nation's dependence on
oil. Even assuming the administration is right about conserving 10 billion
gallons of gas over four years, the savings will barely affect a nation
that burns 11 billion gallons every month, said Kevin S. Curtis, vice
president of the National Environmental Trust.

''President Bush must have no clue how much gas costs in this country,"
Curtis said.

Under the new regulations -- which don't require congressional approval --
a typical minivan or SUV will have to get 24.5 miles per gallon by the
time the industry rolls out its models for 2011. Larger vehicles must
average either 23.3 or 21.9 miles per gallon, depending on the size. That
tightens the current overall standard of 21.6 miles per gallon for light
trucks produced for model year 2006.

But cars and trucks that weigh more than 8,500 pounds, such as
increasingly popular vehicles like the Hummer H2 and the Ford Excursion,
will remain outside the federal regulations, even though they get the
worst mileage per gallon. In addition, a plan to divide all light trucks,
SUVs, and minivans into six categories with separate fuel-efficiency
standards could spur domestic and foreign automakers to produce more
larger vehicles that use more gas.

The Transportation Department will accept public comments over the next 90
days on the proposal, with final regulations to be issued in April. The
average fuel economy of 27.5 miles per gallon for cars that weigh less
than 6,000 pounds will not be affected by the new regulations.
In the current system, adopted in 1975, an auto manufacturer's entire line
of light trucks, SUVs, and minivans -- vehicles weighing between 6,000 and
8,500 pounds -- h  [ send green star]
 
 August 25, 2005 9:28 AM

has to collectively average at least 21.6 miles per
gallon. That pushes automakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles at
one end of the class to compensate for heavier, less efficient ones that
bring down the average.

The new standards, however, will replace the single category of light
trucks with six light-truck classifications, and each class will have a
different standard for average gas mileage. The largest vehicles now have
the lowest gas mileage standard.

The biggest light trucks in the class, defined by the vehicle's area
within its four wheels, must average 21.3 miles per gallon, which is 0.03
miles per gallon lower than the current standard. The change will allow
manufacturers, including the ''Big Three" -- Ford, General Motors, and
Chrysler-Daimler -- to produce a greater number of heavier vehicles, since
they no longer will have to worry about those vehicles' average miles per
gallon throwing off the average for the entire light-truck line, said Alan
Baum, director of automotive forecasting at Planning Edge, a Michigan
consulting firm.

''The Big Three were the ones pushing for this, since there's more profit
for the larger vehicles," Baum said. ''[Gas] mileage will increase only
modestly under the plan, and there will still be a full range of vehicle
options for consumers" because of the categories.

Baum said it's impossible to tell whether the plan will reduce overall gas
consumption, since that depends on driving habits as well as the types of
vehicles on the market. The Transportation Department estimated that the
changes will cost the industry a total of about $6.3 billion over four
years, and Baum said technology already exists to produce light trucks
that get more miles per gallon.

The announcement was made as the nationwide average pump price for
regular-grade gas rose to $2.61 per gallon, up 6.2 cents in the past week.
In addition, pressure is mounting in Congress for President Bush to take
further steps to control emissions that are linked with global warming.

Earlier this month, Bush signed into law an overhaul of the nation's
energy policies to spur the production of oil, gas, and other energy
sources, but the measure probably won't affect fuel prices or soaring
demand. In debating the energy bill, the GOP-controlled Congress rejected
attempts to increase the fuel efficiency of light trucks to as much as 33
miles per gallon by 2015, a level the National Academy of Sciences has
deemed feasible.

Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat who serves on the House
Energy Committee, said the White House is taking only small steps to
increase fuel efficiency. The new regulations, he said, will give
automakers a chance to ''game the new system" by producing trucks that
actually use more gas and produce more air pollution.

''Today's announcement does next to nothing to help America's drivers,"
said Markey, who sponsored measures to boost fuel economy as part of the
energy bill. ''Instead of closing gas-guzzling loopholes and calling for
meaningful increases in fuel-economy standards, the Bush administration
has simply rearranged the deck chairs on its already sinking energy
policy."

Defending the proposal, administration officials insisted that splitting
light-truck standards into categories is the best way to handle vehicles
that didn't exist when the current standards were put in place in 1975. In
addition, they said the changes will improve vehicle safety. Under the
current system, some automakers cut corners to shed vehicle weight, making
their lighter vehicles more fuel efficient but also less sturdy, said
Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration.

The existing system, Runge said, ''conserved fuel but also resulted in
more deaths on our highways."

Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the
administration's proposal ''protects the status quo" and does not promote
new technologies, like hydrogen, fuel cells, and ethanol, that will allow
cars to run more efficiently in the future.

''It is backward-looking, and it will bring us more dependence on
unreliable foreign oil, more pollution, and higher gasoline costs for
American families," Kerry said.

ITEM #2
Title: Shift for SUVs in mileage rules
Source: Copyright 2005, New York Times
Date: August 25, 2005
Byline:  Danny Hakim and John M. Broder

The Bush administration has released its long-awaited plan to overhaul
fuel economy regulations, promising to save gasoline by requiring modest
improvements in the performance of sport utility vehicles and other
trucks.

But the proposal was swiftly condemned by environmental groups and other
critics, who said it would do little to slow U.S. oil consumption.

Top administration officials said their plan would save 10 billion gallons
of gasoline over nearly two decades, or roughly 25 days' supply under
current consumption trends. It is the first sweeping change of fuel
regulations covering light-duty trucks, a category that includes sport
utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans.

But it also included a broadside against the authority of California, New
York and some other states to move forward with plans to regulate
automotive emissions of global warming gases.

Efforts by several states on the U.S. East and West coasts to regulate
emissions would save significantly more gasoline in those states than the
administration  [ send green star]
 
 August 25, 2005 9:29 AM

administration's nationwide proposal.

The administration said its plan would increase the average mileage of
light trucks to 24 miles a gallon, or 9.8 liters per 100 kilometers, for
2011 models, compared with 21.2 miles a gallon, or 11.1 liters per 100
kilometers, in today's models.

"This plan is good news for American consumers," Transportation Secretary
Norman Mineta said in a statement, "because it will ensure the vehicles
they buy get more miles to the gallon, requiring fewer stops at the gas
station and ultimately saving them money at the pump."

Mineta announced the plan at a news conference in Los Angeles, where he
arrived in a silver Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle.

But the structure of the new proposal makes it difficult to know exactly
how much gasoline might be saved over all, and it could open new avenues
for automakers to slip through a regulatory system already known for its
loopholes.

"Making our cars and trucks go farther on a gallon of gas," said Dan
Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global-warming program, "is the
biggest single step we can take to save money at the gas pump, cut oil
dependence and curb global warming."

After a three-month public comment period, the administration will submit
a final rule by April. The news conference was held at a Mobil station
near Los Angeles International Airport, where a gallon of regular gasoline
was selling for just under $2.80.

The administration said the rules would cost automakers about $6.2 billion
but provide $7 billion to $7.5 billion in consumer savings at the gasoline
pump - based on assumed gasoline prices of $1.51 to $1.58 a gallon, a
level that critics said was too low.

Ultimately, many analysts say, rising gasoline prices could supersede
regulation as the tool to finally force automakers to produce vehicles
that are more fuel-efficient than Lincoln Navigators. This year, the two
domestic-owned automakers, General Motors and Ford Motor, which makes
Lincolns, have been redoubling their efforts to develop a smaller breed of
sport utility vehicles to better compete with Toyota and Honda.

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile
Manufacturers, a lobbying group for GM, Toyota and most other leading
producers, said of the plan, "It's going to take us weeks to review it and
assess it and determine what it's going to mean for automakers.

"Today's announcement represents the sixth straight increase in fuel
economy standards, and that's a challenge to automakers even with all the
fuel-efficient technologies on sale today," she said, adding that for
automakers, higher prices at the pump would ease the burden of the rules
by pushing drivers toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"Higher gas prices will be our ally, ironically," Bergquist said.

If nothing else, the 169-page plan is complex. Today, corporate average
fuel economy regulations, known in the industry as CAFE standards, divide
each automaker's annual vehicle production into two categories: passenger
cars and light-duty trucks. New cars must average 27.5 miles a gallon and
light trucks 20.7 miles a gallon in 2004 models. Rules for cars are not
being changed.

The administration previously increased the standard for light trucks to
22.2 miles a gallon by the 2007 model year. The new plan would raise it to
23.5 miles a gallon by 2010.

More important, it would create a system in which each automaker's new
light trucks would be divided into six size classes. Larger size classes
would have less demanding fuel economy targets. From 2008 to 2010 models,
automakers would have a choice between the current system and the new
size-based system. By 2011 models, only the new system would remain.

The Bush administration rules are modest in comparison with emissions
regulations proposed by California that would have the effect of forcing
steeper fuel economy increases on vehicles sold there and in other states
that mimic California's air-quality rules. The industry is challenging
California in court, and the administration's proposal said that such
efforts by states would "interfere" with its plan.

A range of people who have studied the structure of the plan say it would
alleviate difficulties that GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler have under the
existing system because they build more heavy SUVs and pickup trucks than
their Asian competitors.

One concern among critics is that an automaker could slightly enlarge some
vehicles to move them into a less demanding category. For instance, if the
length and width of the Subaru Outback were increased a fraction of an
inch, it could move from a category with a fuel target of 28.7 miles a
gallon in 2011 to a category requiring 27.1 miles a gallon.

Such gaming characterizes the current system; Subaru recently raised the
Outback higher off the ground and made other technical design
modifications to change its classification from a passenger car to a light
truck.

The new approach makes it both easier and harder to reclassify cars as
trucks. Much-criticized rules related to seat design have allowed vehicles
like the Chrysler PT Cruiser to be counted as trucks, and the loophole
would be wider in the new system. But since the smallest trucks would have
mileage targets comparable to cars, there might be less incentive to do
 [ send green star]
 
 August 25, 2005 9:30 AM

so.

The administration's plan is expected to reopen a vigorous debate about
the effects of fuel economy regulations on safety. A leading architect of
the plan, John Graham of the Office of Management and Budget, has in the
past been an author of widely criticized research contending that fuel
economy regulations killed thousands of people each year because they gave
automakers incentives to make vehicles lighter so they would be more
fuel-efficient. Similar findings have been published more recently by the
National Academy of Sciences and are at the heart of the plan's
structure.

Consumer groups dispute such contentions and raise concerns about the
opposite problem, that increasingly heavy SUVs and pickup trucks have
added risks for other drivers. The proposal, as written, could exacerbate
the issue if automakers made vehicles larger to put them into less
stringent categories.

In an e-mail message, Graham said the plan was "both good for consumers
and good for the environment," adding that it would also "reduce the
adverse safety effects that motorists experienced under the old CAFE
system."

The proposal does not extend fuel regulations to the largest and least
fuel-efficient SUVs and pickup truck, like the Hummer H2.


Danny Hakim reported from Chicago for this article, and John M. Broder
reported from Los Angeles.

###

Networked by Climateark, a project of Ecological Internet, Inc.
http://www.climateark.org/
GlenBarry@EcologicalInternet.org

 [ send green star]
 
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