The auto industry is on the verge of a significant victory with the expected passage of a new energy bill that will do little to force automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the Detroit News
.After first shelving plans in both the U.S. House and Senate to substantially increase fueleconomy, Congress now has scaled back mandates even further, the News
reported. Automakers fiercely opposed aggressive new fuel economy requirements, which they said would force them to downsize their vehicles -- going against consumer demand for big, powerful cars and trucks -- and could lead to major job losses. They also argued smaller, lighter vehicles would compromise safety.The energy bill does not mandate a specific oilsavings goal and doesn't require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to write new fuel economy rules for cars in addition to SUVs and other light trucks, the News
noted. It also does not set a deadline for NHTSA to issue its fuel economy rules, a change from an earlier version of the bill.Industry supporters said those votes made it clear lawmakers from both parties wanted to leave the final decision to the regulators. Thefinal bill will preserve jobs and minimize the safety risks inherent in downsizing vehicles to achieve better fuel economy, they said, according to the News
."The decisions will be based on sound science rather than political whim," said Eron Shosteck, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, according to the News
. "That's good for consumers, and it's good for anybody who works at an auto plant or for an auto supplier."