A Failure of Energy

New York Times OPED castigates US Senate on failure to increase CAFE.

Published: 15-Mar-2002

Americans should be outraged at the Senate's vote on Wednesday to compromise important national security and environmental concerns in order to please the auto industry and its unions. That is precisely what took place when 62 senators, as part of the ongoing debate on new energy legislation, rejected a long-overdue effort to increase fuel efficiency standards by 50 percent over 13 years. Doing so promised ultimately to save 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, more than is currently imported from the Middle East.

The average mileage for vehicles sold in America has dropped to 24 miles per gallon, the lowest level since 1980. The standard for cars, set in 1985, is an average 27 miles, but the broader average is falling due to the increasing popularity of S.U.V.'s and minivans. These are classified, absurdly enough, as light trucks, and therefore must meet only a 20.7-mile-per-gallon standard.

In mimicking the House's failure last year to raise the standards or close the gap between S.U.V.'s and cars as part of a broader energy bill, the Senate seemed to shut its eyes to the historic moment. Senators acted as if the California energy crisis had never taken place, and as if the industrialized world were not increasingly concerned about its dependence on fuel imports from a turbulent Middle East.



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