Casting aside arguments made by the auto industry for years, a panel appointed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences said yesterday that the industry could significantly increase fuel-efficiency in SUVs and light trucks over the next decade. But a majority of the panel’s 13 members, most of whom have strong ties to the industry, said the improvements in efficiency could lead to more traffic deaths, if manufacturers choose to accomplish the boost in efficiency by making vehicles lighter and smaller. President Bush had said he would develop a recommendation about fuel efficiency after reading the panel’s report, but White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said yesterday that a bill passed by Congress last year prohibited the administration from doing more than simply reviewing the report. Fleischer also highlighted the safety issue discussed in the report.
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