In response to a call from President Bush to start weaning America from its petroleum addiction and reducing Middle East oil imports as much as 75 percent by 2025, the federal government has finally implemented a long-awaited bump in gas mileage standards for light trucks such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickups. Under existing standards, automakers’ 2006 model year light trucks must meet an average of 21.6 miles per gallon (mpg). The new rules call for bumping the fuel economy standard up to 22.2 mpg.
“The new standards represent the most ambitious fuel economy goals for light trucks ever developed in the program’s 27-year history,” Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta told reporters upon announcing the new standards.
Analysts report that the new rules—which are set to apply to pickups and SUVs made between 2008 and 2011—would save almost 11 billion gallons of fuel over four years. While the new rules are likely to increase the sticker price of new vehicles as automakers scramble to boost fuel efficiency, consumers will likely make up the difference in fuel savings over the first few years of any given vehicle’s life.
Still, though, environmentalists maintain that even the new rules do not go far enough. “After the Bush administration acknowledged our oil addiction, one might have expected a slam dunk, but this is an air ball,” said David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Meanwhile, Eric Haxthausen, an economist with Environmental Defense, likened the new rules to “slowing down the Titanic as it steams ahead toward the iceberg.”