Senators on Capitol Hill are calling for an increase in automobile fuel economy and accusing the Bush administration of trailing behind the marketplace in opposing significant increases, according to the Associated Press. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that the administration’s “bold” characterization of its recent increase in small truck and SUV mileage is off the mark, because it only amounts to a 1.8 miles per gallon boost over the next four years. Cantwell added that with motorists using nearly half of the country’s oil and U.S. gasoline prices at crisis-level for some families, there should be a bolder approach to fuel savings. At the hearing, Mineta reiterated the administration’s opposition to imposing tougher mileage requirements on cars until federal fuel economy rules are changed to make them more flexible for industry. Mineta added that an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements would not impact today’s gas prices, and that developing new rules would take at least a year and then cannot be required for 18 months to give manufacturers adequate lead time. Currently automakers must meet a fleet average for passenger cars of 27.5 miles per gallon, a standard enacted by Congress in 1975 in response to the oil shocks unleashed by the Arab oil embargo.
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