EPA holds back negative report on U.S. auto fuel efficiency

According to a report not released Wednesday by the U.S. EPA, loopholes in U.S. fuel-economy standards let automakers produce cars and trucks much less fuel-efficient than models 20 years ago. On Tuesday, the same day the long-debated energy bill emerged from congressional negotiations, EPA opted to keep the report to itself for another week. An agency spokesflack says it’s being reviewed for clarity and thoroughness, but some think the delay has a peculiar smell. Says the Sierra Club’s Daniel Becker, “Something’s fishy when the Bush administration delays a report showing no improvement in fuel economy until after passage of their energy bill, which fails to improve fuel economy.” According to the report, the average 2004 auto sold in the U.S. got 6 percent fewer miles per gallon than one from the late 1980s, both because of the rising popularity of SUVs and because advances in engine technology have largely been used to make vehicles more powerful rather than more fuel efficient.