Senate Calls on EPA to Improve Automobile Fuel Efficiency Testing

Environmental groups are backing a provisional amendment to the recently passed Senate Highway Bill calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve its fuel-efficiency standards testing procedures to bring its published miles-per-gallon tabulations in line with real world driving conditions.

The last time the EPA adjusted the way it gauges miles-per-gallon tallies on individual vehicle types was 1985, and even agency officials admit they were already looking into ways to update their testing procedures to take into account changes in technology and driving habits in the intervening two decades. Critics of the current testing system accuse the EPA of accepting auto manufacturers’ idealized claims about their own vehicles’ fuel efficiency.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the provision in order to spur the EPA into action accordingly. “We want consumers to believe in this number and the information,” Cantwell told reporters. “EPA needs to do a new test. It’s hard to be accurate if you don’t base the test on the driving behavior and conditions we have today.”

If the measure makes it through the House-Senate conference committee, which will turn the final bill into law, the EPA will have to implement its updated systems and procedures within two years.