Bush admin unveils weak new fuel-economy rules for light trucks

The Bush administration surveyed the landscape — gas prices rising, fears of oil dependence spreading — and concluded that bold leadership was required. So it invaded an oil-rich country. Heh, well … on to Plan B! Yesterday, the administration proposed a new set of auto fuel-economy rules. Tightening the standard for passenger cars? Uh, no, that would stay at an average of 27.5 miles per gallon. Finally imposing some requirements on mega-SUVs like the Hummer H2? Wrong again. Instead, most SUVs, pickups, and minivans would be divided into six categories based on size, each with its own fuel-economy requirements. The administration says the plan would increase the average mileage of these vehicles a whopping 2.8 mpg by 2011, to 24 mpg. Amazing but true! Despite the obvious logic of the plan, it has critics, some of whom point out that it would actually provide an incentive for auto manufacturers to make their light trucks larger, so they’d be bumped into categories with lower mileage standards. “The proposal is almost embarrassing in terms of its effect on fuel consumption,” said Eric Haxthausen of Environmental Defense.