President George Bush may look to Congress for authority to alter the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) requirements for passenger cars, as part of the White House's latest bid to gain some political traction on the issue of rapidly spiraling energy costs. An arcane attribute of existing CAFE regulations has already allowed Bush to increase CAFE standards for light trucks and to implement a multi-tier standard that takes vehicle size into account. However, apparently making similar changes to the existing 27.5 MPG requirement for cars may require new legislation.
It's likely that any changes to the CAFE standard would take at least two years to take effect, since manufacturers would be given a minimum of 18 months to adapt their line-ups. Of course, since the required consumption bogey would likely be established by vehicle size, it's yet unclear whether this would result in a meaningful increase in the average fuel economy of passenger cars, as a manufacturer could simply produce larger vehicles if consumer demand doesn't drive an increase in efficiency.