Senate committee OKs bill to raise fuel-economy standards

A Senate committee has approved legislation that would increase average vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, with a 4 percent annual increase from 2021 to 2030. For nearly two decades, U.S. passenger cars have averaged 27.5 mpg, while light trucks and SUVs have measured even lower. Besides boosting those stats, the new bill would regulate large work trucks and tractor-trailers for the first time. Fuel-economy toughening has never had so much congressional support — thanks, gas prices and climate change! — but greens are wary, noting that the bill would let the Transportation Department lower standards if costs allegedly outweigh benefits. “When you look at all the loopholes in this [bill], it kind of looks like Swiss cheese,” says the Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Friedman, whom we may ask to join our Simile Department. Not surprisingly, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has declared the shift “unattainable, unreasonable, and not technologically feasible.”