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June 22, 2007

Senate Passes New CAFE Standards -- What About the House?

Yesterday the Senate passed the first comprehensive bill on new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks in over twenty years. It was a bi-partisan effort and there were definitely compromises made that will not please environmentalists, but considering the Democrats' tenuous hold on majority status it's still a win. The bill passed 65-27 on a voice vote. Here's the core component:

The compromise legislation raises the fleetwide average fuel economy standards for all cars, trucks and SUVs by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years — or from 25 to 35 miles per gallon by Model Year 2020.

Other elements of the bill:

- Provides funding for research and development of fuel-saving technologies

- Achieves up to 18% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions

- Saves between 2.0 and 2.5 million barrels of oil a day

- Saves consumers $79-98 billion

The drawbacks:

- Doesn't rescind the billions of dollars in tax subsidies the previous (Republican) congress gave as a payoff to oil companies

- Doesn't require electric utilities to increase their share of power from renewables

I'm not crazy about the permission companies will get to buy and trade credits if they don't meet certain standards by the target dates (just as I've never liked the "cap and trade" regimes offered to some of the country's biggest polluters) but the nation's scientists recommended that it be included. Overall, it's a bill that works to get us back on track to reduce carbon emissions AND reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- two goals that Bush, Cheney and their cronies in the oil industry only pay lip service to.

The fact is that smaller cars with higher gas mileage are well-made and appealing to consumers. And companies like Toyota proved they are money-makers. Since Toyota has already beat out Chrysler and Ford in national sales, in addition to speeding past GM to become the global sales leader, maybe Detroit will finally start getting with the program. "The Big Three" no longer exists. If only someone would get that message to Congressman John Dingell, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who is commonly referred to as "the congressman from General Motors". Rumor on the street is that he's not planning on pushing for a companion bill between now and the July 4th recess. In fact, he's making noises that it will be stymied until sometime in the fall, when the House takes up legislation on global warming. Under normal circumstances, that might be a sensible idea, but the Republicans will surely block meaningful global warming legislation with endless, contrary amendments intended to reward their friends in the oil and gas industries. The momentum is with the Democrats and they need to use it to their advantage.

Pelosi's reportedly negotiating with Dingell, but there's something we can do in the meantime: we can contact another member of the committee and urge him to have a serious tete-a-tete with Dingell. Jay Inslee is the only Washington State representative on the committee and, as a reliable advocate for forward-thinking energy and environmental policies, he's the right person for this task. We really can't afford to waste precious time while we've got the wind at our backs.


Jay Inslee

D.C. office: toll free (800) 422-5521

Fax: (202) 226-1606

Shoreline office: (206) 361-0223

Fax: (206) 361-3959

email: http://www.house.gov/inslee/contact/email.html

Posted by shoephone on June 22, 2007 at 01:25 AM in Environment, National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink


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