New Fuel Economy Rules On The Way

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Bush administration plans to announce final fuel economy regulations that will require vehicles average 24 miles per gallon by 2011.

The administration is also considering including large SUVs and passenger vans in fuel economy rules for the first time. The rules would include three big moneymakers for GM: the Hummer H2, GMC Yukon XL and Chevy Suburban.

The standards would be the first for the largest SUVs and vans which have been a staple of the U.S. auto industry. Imposing mileage standards would add increased pressure to domestic automakers already struggling with profitability.

The standards would affect vans and SUVs weighing between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds. Those vehicles have been exempt from fuel standards that affect smaller cars and trucks.

The mileage standards would not affect pickup trucks which make up the majority of vehicles over 8,500 pounds.

Environmental groups would like the administration to increase the fleet average to 254 mpg by 2011 and hope to convince the administration before the new rules are announced.

Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen has characterized the administration proposal as more of an effort to bail out the auto industry rather than improve fuel economy. She said the revised fuel economy rules "were designed to save the SUV market for Detroit, not protect the public." The new rules would raise fuel economy standards for all cars and trucks from 22.5 mpg in 2008 to 23.5 mpg in 2010 and about 24 mpg in 2011.

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