U.S. Senate Votes Against Increased Fuel Efficiency

In a blow to advocates of stricter fuel-efficiency standards, the Senate yesterday voted 65 to 32 against a proposal by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) that would have required cars and SUVs to average 40 miles per gallon by 2015. Instead, the Senate backed an industry-supported proposal to let the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set fuel-efficiency standards after reviewing their likely impact on U.S. manufacturing jobs and vehicle safety. That plan, said Durbin, “doesn’t challenge the automobile industry to do better,” a sentiment shared by environmentalists. Under current regulations, U.S. car fleets must average 27.5 miles per gallon, while SUVs, minivans, and light trucks (which together account for more than 50 percent of all vehicles sold) must average 22.2 miles per gallon by 2007. The proposal was voted on as part of the omnibus energy bill the Senate hopes to finish this week, before its August recess.