It was an amendment to HR5576 and was passed without the three Wisconsin Republicans support. It increased funds for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration office in charge of vehicle fuel efficiency. It will raise funding from $1.3 million to $8 million and give the agency more tools to enforce current standards.
A former administrator of the agency writes the following regarding the importance of the bill’s passage and increased fuel efficiency standards in general.
Poor funding and the failure of congressional authority have prevented the Office of Fuel Economy from effectively monitoring the auto industry and setting the maximum feasible levels for fuel economy standards. With this amendment, the Office of Fuel Economy will again have the funding and authority to take an active stand as a proponent of vehicle fuel efficiency and innovation.
Fuel economy standards have not been raised since I issued the first CAFE standards almost three decades ago. The current car standard, which took effect in 1985, is only 27.5 mpg. If it were raised to an achievable average of 40 mpg, we would save approximately 3.4 million barrels of oil a day. In a year, the quantity saved would be one and a half times greater than our current annual imports from the Persian Gulf.
Although the current standards appear to be outdated, The Union of Concerned Scientists proclaims the CAFE standards a success commenting:
CAFE standards increased new car and truck fuel economy by 70 percent between 1975 and 1988. In 2000 alone, CAFE saved American consumers $92 billion, reduced oil use by 60 billion gallons of gasoline, and kept 720 million tons of global warming pollution out of our atmosphere. The original schedule for CAFE improvements ended in 1985, leaving Congress and the administration responsible for future improvements - none of which have been pursued, leading to the current drop in fuel economy of the national vehicle fleet.
So when the CAFE standards have been followed, they have saved consumers money AND reduced the amount of global warming pollution? So what is the big debate in giving the Office of Fuel Economy more tools and funding to do its job?
I intend to ask Paul Ryan that question if he accepts my invitation to see “An Inconvenient Truth.” While I’m at it, I think I’ll cover admission for Sensenbrenner and Petri also. I think that we deserve an explanation from all three of them on their “no” votes last week.