White House may increase CAFE for SUVs

In a December 6 White House press briefing, press secretary Dana Perino said the White House has a proposal for a new increase in the CAFE standard for light trucks and SUVs. The president has full control of the CAFE standard for light trucks (which includes SUVs but not passenger cars) and has used it twice in his administration. The news of a proposed, third change in SUV CAFE came in a response to a question on the support for the compromise reached on CAFE two weeks ago. As we reported, the president does not support the CAFE standards that are currently in the energy bill and threatened to the veto the energy bill because of it. Here is exactly what Dana said;

Q: I know there are a number of provisions in there that have drawn veto threats, but what about the CAFE standards? Is that -- the language that's in the bill now, that's in the House version, is that acceptable to the administration?

A: No, the way that it's drafted is not. The President wants to have increases in CAFE standards. He already has increased CAFE standards for SUVs and light trucks already twice in this administration. We have a proposal right now for a third. The reason he could do that is because under the law, he has the authority to do it. He doesn't have that authority on passenger cars. He's asked Congress for it for the last two years. They've not acted on it. So we've asked Secretary Peters and EPA Administrator Johnson to work towards that. But the way that language was specifically written, we can't support it in the House bill, but it might be able to get fixed in the conference committee.

Bush actually lost a law suit recently which said he did not do enough on CAFE, so, that proposal may just be reaction to the law suit. Friday morning, less than a day after the House passed the Energy Bill, the Senate killed it, with a vote of 53 for and 43 against, 7 fewer votes for the needed 60 to get it to the president's desk. The Senate will re-write the bill and there is some talk of making CAFE a bill all by itself. The CAFE compromise was a part of a larger bill and Dingell, one might argue, only made the compromise for the greater good of the energy bill. So, while CAFE is a settled issue in the energy bill, by itself, there might be changes.

Whats going to happen? I would not expect much before next year because there is talk that everyone might leave for Christmas vacation as early as Friday. Even if the Energy Bill or separate CAFE bill is sent to the house, it will probably go through a few more passes between the House and the Senate before going to the White House, which can let it sit for a while as well. In totally unrelated news (he said sarcastically) the Congress and President's approval ratings are at all time lows because they don't seem to be getting anything done.

[Source: White House, AutoBlog]

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