Bush Mandates New Fuel Rules by End of Term

by : Lauren Woods

President George W. Bush issued an executive order last Monday directing three agencies to come up with regulations by the end of his term. The president's order is aimed at improving fuel economy standards for cars and at the same time slashing tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases.

"We have now reached a pivotal moment where advances in technology are creating new ways to improve energy security, strengthen national security and protect the environment," Bush said in an announcement in the Rose Garden. The president made his a six-minute announcement one day after the nation's gas prices hit at all time average high of $3.07 per gallon, $3.26 in Michigan, and increasing clamor in Congress to force auto manufacturers to do more to boost efficiency of vehicles.

Bush has called for an end to the nation's "addiction" to oil and mapped out a plan called "20-in-10" to limit gas consumption by 20 percent in a decade. But his announcement also mirrored the realities of the building clout of advocates of higher CAFÉ standards in the Democratic Congress and a Supreme Court ruling last month on tailpipe emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson said in a teleconference with reporters that the "20-in-10" plan will be a guide. He added, "We have not reached any conclusions about what the final regulation will look like." Johnson said they would issue a preliminary proposal by fall.

David Friedman, the clean vehicles program research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the president's goals would require the fleet of cars and light trucks to reach 34 miles per gallon by 2017. "If the president delivers what he's promised, his proposal would take the nation a long way toward reducing its dependence on oil and cutting global warming pollution. But, given that the Supreme Court had to force the Bush administration to regulate greenhouse gases, Congress is going to have to enact guaranteed fuel economy improvements and low carbon fuel standards," Friedman noted.

In a news conference, Bush said that a mix of increased use of alternative fuels and higher economy standards "would save billions of gallons of fuel and reduce net greenhouse gas emission without compromising jobs or safety."

Bush's "20-in-10" plan has come under harsh scrutiny from automakers, but has been embraced by many, including Democrats on Capitol Hill, who desire auto companies to do more to enhance fuel efficiency. It would require automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles by an average of 4 percent yearly, to save 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline each year by 2017.

A Bush Administration analysis said that four percent increases would cost automakers $114 billion between 2010 and 2017, including $85 billion for domestic automakers. General Motors, it figured, would have to pay $40 billion - a figure the largest American automaker calls "probably low."

Last week, a Senate panel approved a plan to raise corporate average fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon, about 40 percent hike, by 2020. Unfortunately, the proposal was called "unattainable" by many automakers. Indeed, the proposal needs enhancement of auto parts like engines, the , radiators and more. It also necessitates in-depth studies and testing.

Dave McCurdy, the head of the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, the trade group that represents the General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG and the Toyota Motor Corp. among others, offered a lackadaisical response. "Automakers support reforming and raising car fuel economy standards, consistent with the need to preserve jobs and consumer choice. Determining the right level for the future will require sound science and engineering, in an open process that involves everyone," McCurdy said.