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Kicking Asphalt Follow Up:

New Fuel Economy Standards Extended to SUVs

Trucks Still Exempted

In August, Kicking Asphalt described the analogized the Bush Administration's exempting SUVs and Trucks from its higher Fuel Economyc Standards to raising adolescent physical fitness standards but exempting the fattest kids or enhancing corporate securities disclosure but exempting the most dishonest companies

Kicking Asphalt would like to take credit for raising the consciousness of the Bush Administration, but credit is being given to President Bush's declaration in January that the United States is "addicted to oil" and his call for a 75 percent reduction in imports of Middle East oil by 2025.

The fuel economy rules, covering 2008 through 2011, would save 10.7 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicles sold during that period, officials said.

As pleased as we are that the Administration is moving in the right direction on this issue, it's actions are still woefully inadequate. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated it would save only two weeks of gasoline a year in the next two decades.

The rules would include SUVs weighing 8,500 to 10,000 pounds for the first time, starting in 2011, but not include large pickups in the weight class. Vehicles likely to be affected include the Hummer H2, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon XL and Ford Expedition EL, scheduled to be released this summer.

Transportation officials said they would require manufacturers to install fuel-saving technology on all passenger trucks.

The new rules do not apply to passenger cars, which must meet an average of 27.5 miles per gallon.

Under the system, automakers must meet an average of 21.6 mpg for their 2006 model year light trucks. That average will rise to 22.2 mpg for 2007 vehicles.

The fleetwide average would reach 24 mpg by 2011, when the largest SUVs will be included in the calculation. The program will be phased in through 2010, with automakers having the option of complying under the old system or using the new system.

If automakers use the old system, the targets would be 22.5 mpg in 2008, 23.1 mpg in 2009 and 23.5 mpg in 2010. All manufacturers would need to use the new system in 2011.

The new rules would call for specific fuel economy standards for all light trucks based on the vehicle's wheelbase and track width.

Mineta said the new rules would help close loopholes used in the past to meet the standards and level the playing field for automakers.

Watch this space as Better World Club is going to have an annoucement regarding an effort to make consumers aware of just what's needed to get America off of imported oil.

But even this standard may be too tough according to auto company representatives. "This is challenging, and it won't be easy to meet these standards, but manufacturers are committed to being a part of the solution," said Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Transportation officials estimated the plan would add about $200 to the cost of each vehicle, but consumers probably would recoup that cost in fuel savings in four years, they said.

Automakers have noted that the final plan probably will mean seven straight years of higher fuel economy requirements for light trucks. The industry has fought previous attempts to raise the standards but has expressed support for the proposal's direction.

A Ford spokesman, Ed Lewis, said it would be "technically challenging" but would "move automakers toward a more level playing field because it recognizes the differences between full-line manufacturers and those who only produce small trucks."

A GM spokeswoman, Sherrie Childers-Arb, said her company looked forward to "carefully reviewing" the new rules.