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Senators Lott, Pryor Introduce CAFE Reform, Authorizing DOT to Set Auto Standards

From: Office of Sen. Trent Lott    Filed 5/18/06 GCN

< WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Trent Lott of Mississippi and Mark Pryor of Arkansas today introduced legislation to give the Department of Transportation (DOT) the authority to set Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles.

The bill Lott and Pryor introduced today – The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Program Reform Act of 2006 –  “puts the responsibility for setting CAFE standards where it belongs, with the scientists and technical experts at DOT,” Lott and Pryor said.

Just this spring, DOT issued new reformed CAFE rules for pickup trucks, vans and SUVs, a radical departure from previous CAFE rules because DOT is applying different standards to different-sized vehicles, rather than a uniform standard across the whole fleet, Lott said.  But he pointed out that the recent rule did not reform standards for cars which have had the same CAFE rules since 1984. 

“In the past, some in Congress have played politics with CAFE, offering bills that try to set unrealistically high or arbitrary CAFE standards, while others have opposed any action at all, resulting in a stalemate,” Lott said.  “We need to get tougher standards in place as soon as we can.  Senator Pryor and I are committed to improving the fuel economy of our vehicles without reducing safety and reliability, or losing jobs.”

“Consumers can no longer afford the delay on stricter CAFE standards as Congress waits for environmentalists and car manufacturers, Republicans and Democrats to agree,” Pryor said.  “Senator Lott and I have come up with a sensible, middle-of-the-road proposal that improves fuel efficiency which in turn will ultimately reduce our dependency on foreign oil, lower the price consumers pay at the pump and better protect the environment. Our bill avoids extremes in order to make much-needed progress on this issue, and eventually help our country out of the oil crisis we are in.”

The Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee which Lott chairs, in a May 9 hearing on CAFE standards, heard from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, along with auto industry reps, safety advocates and economic experts.  Senator Lott said the reform bill will address many of the past criticisms heard from these witnesses.

“For example, our legislation specifies that the DOT Secretary must take motor vehicle safety into consideration when developing new CAFE standards,” Lott said.  “It allows the trading of CAFE credits between a manufacturer’s passenger car and light truck fleets, and it gives manufacturers the flexibility to increase CAFE where it is most cost effective to do so.”

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