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EPA To Consider Revision of Gas Mileage Test

April 9, 2004

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is considering changes to how it calculates mileage estimates, the EPA said in a statement recently. An environmental group called Bluewater Network filed a petition in June 2002 urging EPA to revise testing procedures implemented in 1985. Bluewater Network believes actual fuel economy can be as much as 34 percent lower than the EPA’s current labels, the network said recently in a written statement. The group contends that current estimates do not take into account changes in driving patterns and conditions, such as increased congestion, use of air-conditioning, and the speed limit increase from 55 to 70 miles per hour.“This has been a topic of conversation for a number of years, so this hasn’t been coming out of the blue,” said Stuart Gosswein the Government Affairs Manager for SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association. “This may be the trigger that allows the EPA to officially review the policy.”A downward revision of EPA fuel economy labels would have real-world effects. The corrected EPA figures would provide more accurate information to those forecasting annual expenses on their new vehicles in fleet, for example. Current estimates, according to Bluewater’s petition, are costing car owners hundreds of dollars more in fuel than they expect to pay. CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy, could be affected as well. CAFE is the fleet-wide minimum fuel economy ratings for auto manufacturers. Under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 manufacturers are credited or penalized for falling above or below CAFE standards. For 2005 models, a manufacturer’s entire fleet must average at least 27.5 mpg for gasoline cars and 21 mpg for light trucks to be in compliance. NHTSA sets CAFE standards based on EPA figures. New EPA ratings would put pressure on NHTSA to use more realistic numbers as well. Manufacturers, barring legislative inteference, would be forced to scramble to produce more fuel-efficient cars to meet those standards.
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