Senate CAFE plan goes too far

It is no secret the House and Senate are having trouble negotiating a compromise on their respective energy packages.

ADVERTISEMENT
On June 28, Democratic Rep. Baron Hill (Ind.) and I introduced H.R 2927, The Hill-Terry CAFE bill, which increases fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles. This proposal is one of two on fuel economy standards now under serious consideration for inclusion in a final energy package Congress expects to vote on. We refrained from offering our bill as an amendment to the energy bill this summer in exchange for a good-faith commitment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to debate this issue in the fall.

Fuel economy matters for two reasons. The first is that increasing the fuel economy of the vehicles on our roads will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The second is that increasing fuel economy rates will reduce our imports of foreign oil, helping us become energy independent.

The Hill-Terry CAFE bill requires the secretary of transportation to mandate separate CAFE standards for model year 2022 such that car standards and pickup trucks standards will be no less than a combined 32 miles per gallon and no more than 35 mpg. H.R. 2927 keeps in place the current separation of standards for regular cars and light trucks, which includes sport utility vehicles. Alternative CAFE legislation largely calls for all automobiles to be grouped into one category.

However, increasing fuel economy standards must be done right or it will have disastrous impacts for our economy. Done incorrectly, by imposing unrealistic timetables and CAFE standards such as those in the Senate’s energy bill, CAFE increases could result in the closing of light-truck manufacturing facilities and the loss of jobs dependent on the auto sector.

The Hill-Terry proposal will protect good-paying American manufacturing jobs, preserve consumer choice in auto vehicles, and set achievable timetables for compliance. Additionally, our bill possesses the widest possible bipartisan support in the House with 172 cosponsors from every ideological stripe in Congress.  It has been endorsed by the House Democrat Blue Dog Coalition, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the United Autoworkers and the Alliance of Automobile manufacturers, and groups ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation to the National Conference of Black Mayors and the Traditional Values Coalition.

These groups have come together to support our bill because they understand increasing fuel economy is a national priority that must be handled appropriately and not contain arbitrary and unrealistic deadlines. The Canadian Embassy has requested information on the bill; Canada is interested in it as they have no fuel economy standards.

Unfortunately it looks like Speaker Pelosi will again skip the formal House-Senate Conference Committee, on which Democrats would dominate given their majority status, and instead write the final energy bill among themselves and President Bush. This process not only violates the deal we struck with the Speaker to withdraw our CAFE amendment, but also, it deprives us and our supporters of the opportunity to have champions of our popular, bipartisan bill negotiate directly with their Senate counterparts to produce a bipartisan bill acceptable to both the House and the Senate.

On Oct. 19, Congressman Hill and I sent a letter to the president advocating on behalf of Hill-Terry so that members of the House would have input on the negotiations. This letter garnered over 60 signatures in only two days.

It is my fervent hope that the president will see the wisdom of our common-sense approach toward increasing CAFE standards and push for Hill-Terry’s inclusion in any bill he negotiates with the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.). Adopting the unrealistic, overly aggressive Senate proposal will only bring economic disruption and dislocation to our society.