Fuel Economy Reform Plan Pulls More Critics

by : Glady Reign

The ambience is the Senate is cold and chilling despite the heat of the fuel economy arguments and proposals. No senator is endorsing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) non-specific fuel economy. Furthermore, other senators are now getting critical during hearings on the subjected fuel economy mandates.

Senators were deeply skeptical about President Bush's proposal to and rewrite fuel economy mandates for the nation's vehicles. In a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Nicole Nason, an NHTSA administrator, came under scornful criticism because the administration's proposal does not set a hard-and-fast requirement for automakers to improve vehicle fuel economy to a specific level.

President Bush earlier announced his proposal that requires a 20 percent reduction of gasoline consumption by the year 2017. According to the proposal, this could be done by significantly improving fuel economy. The proposal also gives the government administration the authority to rewrite fuel economy rules and raise standards without enabling law from Congress. A number of lawmakers support mandating a specific increase that requires for a 35 or 40 miles per gallon average.

"For those who want to do nothing about fuel economy, you're the perfect spokesman," U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told Nason on Tuesday. Automakers and other congressional members with familiarity to the auto industry have expressed their dissent in connection with Bush proposal - they regarded it as 'too onerous.'

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Detroit automakers, all in the midst of major restructurings, had created their own problems by failing to keep pace with competitors. "Am I sympathetic to the Big Three? No," he said. "They haven't innovated." In addition, U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said he would no longer support giving NHTSA the authority to set fuel economy standards. Instead he favored giving that amount and kind of power to Congress, since little progress has been made. Further, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, criticized the NHTSA's earlier increase on light trucks, two percent a year through 2011, as "miniscule." "I sense a great deal of foot-dragging, reluctance," she said.

Beth Lowery, GM's vice president for energy and environment, expressed the automaker's toughest resistance to a four percent raise for cars beginning in 2009 and light trucks starting in 2011. Those proposals "are not any realistic measure of what is technically achievable and economically practicable," she said.

Alan Reuther, the legislative director for the United Auto Workers, also condemned the proposed fuel economy increases. Reuther said they could lead to "calamitous results." He added, "This could include the closing of additional facilities and the loss of tens of thousands of additional automotive jobs."

The heat is on and it is unnerving automakers and the NHTSA. General Motors, the Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and Toyota Motor Corp.'s North American units, are the strongest oppositors at this point. Still, these automakers are exerting efforts to boost fuel economy. Upgrading Ford engines, , Toyota radiator, Dodge cooling system and Chevrolet's suspension could etch a milestone in the fuel economy needs.