The calls for more efficient vehicles in the United States amidst
rising gasoline prices have not fallen on deaf ears. A bill destined to raise
the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) average to 35 MPG by 2020 passed the House of
Representatives 235-181 earlier this month.
The measured cleared again yesterday with a 314-100
vote. President Bush will sign the energy bill today.
The energy bill calls for a 40 percent increase in fuel
economy from the current 25 MPG to a loftier 35 MPG. The bill also provides
provisions to increase E85 ethanol production from six billion gallons a year
to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022 -- this is despite opposition
to the increased production of the alternative fuel.
Automobiles aren't the only consumer products targeted by
the energy bill. Household appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves
will also need to become more efficient while commercial and government
buildings will be required to use more efficient lighting including fluorescent-based
Energy companies dodged a bullet with regards to a provision
included in the bill that passed the house earlier this month, but stalled in
the Senate. It called for over $13.5 billion USD in tax breaks to be rolled
back for the United States' five largest oil companies.
President Bush said that he would veto the bill if the $13.5
billion USD rollback was included -- the money would have gone to ignite the
development of alternative energy sources like wind and solar energy.
"You are present at a moment of change, of real
change," said House speaker Nancy Pelosi. "It could have been
stronger," added Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. "It’s really
unfortunate that we didn’t have the renewable electricity standard or the
incentives for wind and solar. But we’ll fight for those another day."
House Representative Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas,
offered a counterpoint; "This legislation is a historic turning point in
Not surprisingly, representatives from America's Big Three
were quick to voice their support for the new energy bill.
"Ford has worked with lawmakers to enact nationwide
requirements that provide a significant increase in fuel economy while
protecting consumers' choices of cars, SUVs and light trucks," Ford Motor
Company said in a statement. "We are working to do our part to help reduce
greenhouse gases and U.S. dependence on foreign oil."
"We commend the Congress for passing an energy bill
today and we fully support it being signed into law. Chrysler is committed to
meeting the fuel economy standards of the bill and doing our part to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and our country's reliance on foreign oil," said
Robert Nardelli, Chairman and CEO, Chrysler LLC. "We continue to devote
significant resources to develop quality, fuel efficient products that our
"GM commends the Congress and President for passage of
an energy bill. The new fuel economy standards within the bill set a tough,
national target that GM will strive to meet," said General Motors CEO Rick
Wagoner. "We will focus our engineering and technical resources to attain
these standards and we remain hard at work applying the innovation and
developing the advanced technologies that will power tomorrow's cars and
Earlier this month, GM Vice Chairman "Maximum" Bob
Lutz said that the 35 MPG CAFE average would require "massive
restructuring of the product plan" and that GM would "start raising
prices as we introduce the new technology."
All of the major players in the American auto market are
looking to hybrids, fuel
cell and all-electric
vehicles to increase fuel economy across the board. Toyota has even gone so far
as to say that all
of its vehicles will be gasoline-electric hybrid by 2020.
Other manufacturers like Honda,
are looking to bring more diesel engines to passenger vehicles to increase fuel
economy. Americans have been hesitant to accept diesel engines in cars and
light-duty trucks in recent years, but newer technology may change many opinions.
One thing is for sure, however, we may start to see less vehicles
like the upcoming tire-shredding 2009
Chevrolet Camaro and 2009
Dodge Challenger SRT-8 and more vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Honda