After promising substantial benefits from boosting CAFE standards — 5 percent reduction in gas use by 2017 — Bush’s energy proposals contain a rather notable caveat:

These amounts are based on an assumption that on average, fuel efficiency standards for both light trucks and passenger cars are increased 4 percent per year, beginning in Model Year 2010 for cars and Model Year 2012 for light trucks. Given the changing nature of the marketplace for both cars and light trucks, the Secretary of Transportation will determine the actual standard and fuel savings in a flexible rulemaking process.

The proposal goes on to specify that:

  • Congress should not be in the business of setting concrete numerical targets for CAFE standards; that should be left to the Secretary of Transportation.
  • The standards should have "escape valves" in case they pose any inconvenience to automakers; there should be a "CAFE credits" trading system for increased "flexibility."
  • Congress should "reform" car CAFE standards to follow the "attribute-based method" Bush established for light trucks last year. You recall those standards — the ones greens bashed for being too complex and for establishing the perverse incentive for automakers to make their trucks larger in order to receive more lenient fuel-economy standards. Yeah, those. Bush wants them for cars too.

To summarize: Bush wants to make fuel-economy standards more complex and easier to evade, and he wants to move responsibility for them out of the hands of elected representatives into the hands of political appointees.

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Gosh, my socks are just knocked off!

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