The US Senate held a hearing on new fuel economy standards yesterday and members from both sides of the aisle were unhappy with the Bush Administration proposals. Republican Senator Ted Stevens is sponsoring a bill to require fuel efficiency of 40 mpg by 2017, and he was highly critical of NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason's defense of the Bush proposal. Democrat Byron Dorgan said that too much effort and technology goes into making engines more powerful instead more efficient.

Given the dramatic increases in power output in the past two decades while fuel consumption has remained largely static, it would seem to be pretty reasonable to expect power levels to be scaled back somewhat so that fuel economy can increase. Modern engines make more usable power now than they ever have, including the muscle car era of the late sixties. They do that while running cleaner and using less fuel than they did in those days. The Bush proposal would effectively do little or nothing by setting standards based on vehicle size. Raising the standards for smaller cars that already exceed the existing standards while only marginally increasing it for larger vehicles would be meaningless. To have an effect, the low mileage cars need to be improved the most, especially since they are some of the best sellers in the US market.

[Source: Detroit News]


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