The Bush Administration announced Thursday that it would support a bill to increase the mandatory fuel capacities of SUVs – a bill which could be approved as early as next week. It is certainly a positive and unexpected effort on the part of the current administration to reach out toward this pressing environmental issue, and the administration should be commended for its thoughtful consideration. Nonetheless, questions have been raised regarding Bush’s motives for supporting this bill and whether or not his policy will be opposed by the automobile industry or viewed as sufficient by environmentalists.
Automobile industries are certain to take an economic blow from this bill. Although many companies have voiced their approval of small increases in fuel economy, they have also declared that they cannot accommodate sharp increases. Some companies have filed lawsuits against particular states’ plans for such environmental improvements and it is possible that these lawsuits could happen again. These groups, however, will most likely approve Bush’s plans, as many feel that the plans will not fully address the concerns of environmentalists.
The required average fuel capacity for SUVs is currently 20.7 miles per gallon, and it is expected that the Bush administration would support an increase of 1.8 mpg over a three-year period, beginning in 2005. Two plans were previously drafted in the House – one proposing to raise truck capacity to 27.5 mpg by 2007, and the other hiking fuel for compact cars and light trucks from 20.7 mpg to 35 mpg by 2013 – both of which were adamantly opposed by General Motors Corp. and Ford Motors Co. It is noteworthy to mention that such stringent plans have been successfully passed in states such as California, requiring SUVs to increase their fuel economy by 25 percent before 2005 and raising the standards for light trucks and passenger cars as well. Compared to California’s law and those that made attempts to pass through the House, the Bush plan obviously falls short.
Understandably, many hold reservations about the law and question why a larger increase has not been suggested. Possibilities include idea that Bush might have chosen to support a smaller increase, rather than none, in order to appease environmentalist groups and cause others to see the issue as closed. Regardless of Bush’s personal intentions, the response to passing this bill may be the same – a general disregard for the issue at hand. Hopefully environmentalists will take this bill as a small token and pursue the issue until better legislation is passed. Automobile companies should try harder to increase their fuel economies without the pressure from the government. This legislation should not be the final step for handling fuel efficiency, but it is an acceptable starting point.