E.P.A. Holds Back Report on Car Fuel Efficiency
DETROIT, July 27 - With Congress poised for a final vote on the energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency made an 11th-hour decision Tuesday to delay the planned release of an annual report on fuel economy.
But a copy of the report, embargoed for publication Wednesday, was sent to The New York Times by a member of the E.P.A. communications staff just minutes before the decision was made to delay it until next week. The contents of the report show that loopholes in American fuel economy regulations have allowed automakers to produce cars and trucks that are significantly less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980's.
Releasing the report this week would have been inopportune for the Bush administration, its critics said, because it would have come on the eve of a final vote in Congress on energy legislation six years in the making. The bill, as it stands, largely ignores auto mileage regulations.
The executive summary of the copy of the report obtained by The Times acknowledges that "fuel economy is directly related to energy security," because consumer cars and trucks account for about 40 percent of the nation's oil consumption. But trends highlighted in the report show that carmakers are not making progress in improving fuel economy, and environmentalists say the energy bill will do little to prod them...
Eryn Witcher, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., said the timing of the release of the report had nothing to do with the energy bill deliberations...
While the proposed bill, as it stands, does offer limited tax credits for hybrid electric cars and advanced diesels, environmental groups object to extending mileage credits for vehicles that can be filled up with an ethanol blend instead of gasoline; many consumers who purchase such vehicles are not even aware of the feature.
The E.P.A. report illustrates what has happened as the industry has poured resources into S.U.V.'s, minivans and family-oriented pickup trucks, vehicle types with less stringent fuel economy requirements than cars. The average new vehicle weight has risen to about 4,000 pounds today, from about 3,200 in the early 1980's. At the same time, the horsepower of an average engine has roughly doubled over two decades, trimming four seconds from the time it takes for the average vehicle to accelerate from zero to 60.
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I have the sense that we're fiddling while oil burns. Our response to our oil dependence on many unsavoury parts of the globe has been to cut taxes, encourage people to shop more and do nothing, absolutely nothing, about encouraging conservation of energy. It was photos of President Bush holding hands with and kissing the Saudi Crown Prince this past spring that finally revolted me enough to get back into commuting by bicycle more and substituting the bike for the car when practical. I was ashamed to see our President sucking up to those who hate us. Which country provided 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers? (hint: it wasn't Iraq) Who does he think funds the insurgents trying to kill our troops in Iraq? How does he think Al Qaeda gets its funding? Bake sales? And now, as this bloated, worthless piece of legislation is about to get voted on, the EPA stalls delivery of a report that might be mildly embarassing to the Administration and Congress. They should be embarassed.