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Transportation & Fuel Source Technology

Bipartisan Support for More Stringent Fuel Efficiency Standards Grows

Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho) introduced a bill today adding to the groundswell calling for better fuel efficiency for cars and trucks. The senators' bill would raise light-duty car and truck fuel efficiency by 4 percent annually, matching proposals by other members of Congress and the president. This step alone would boost fuel efficiency standards to a fleet average of about 35 mpg over the next 10 years, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"When former opponents of fuel efficiency standards like Byron Dorgan and Larry Craig stand side by side with Fortune 500 executives and former U.S. military leaders, you know that we are about to make some major progress on this issue," said David Friedman, UCS clean vehicles research director. "The debate has clearly reached a tipping point when opponents become allies in the fight to save consumers money, protect automaker jobs, cut our oil addiction, and take on global warming."

If the proposed 4 percent annual improvements are realized, consumers would soon start to see savings at the pump, Friedman said. These benefits would continue to grow: By 2025, car and light truck owners would save more than $30 billion annually, cut annual global warming pollution by approximately 500 million metric tons CO2-equivalent, and reduce U.S. oil dependence by 3 million barrels per day (assuming gasoline costs $2.50 per gallon).

Recognizing that there are no silver bullets when it comes to cutting oil dependence, Sens. Dorgan and Craig included requirements in their bill to increase U.S. reliance on renewable fuels. The bill's 2020 requirement for 30 billion gallons of renewable fuel is very aggressive, Friedman said, but acknowledges the role that better fuels must play in curbing America's oil addiction.

"The senators were wise to narrow their requirements for alternative fuels to exclude gasoline or diesel made from coal, which could significantly increase global warming pollution," Friedman said. Friedman also called on the senators to further require that the renewable fuels are produced sustainably and reduce global warming pollution. "Renewable fuels are not truly renewable if they're produced in ways that despoil our land, air and water, as well as if they don't cut global warming pollution."

The bill, however, includes a proposal to open portions of the U.S. coastline to drilling, which UCS opposes. "Drilling off our coasts will do little to curb our oil addiction, especially compared to the significant benefits the bill would achieve if its fuel economy and renewable fuel goals are met," said Friedman. "The United States consumes 25 percent of the world's oil, but has less than 3 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. We simply cannot drill our way out of our oil addiction. It makes no sense to jeopardize our coastal economies, which rely on tourism and fishing, with the threat of offshore drilling."

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