During the debate over the 2007 energy bill, one of the Bush administration’s chief demands – besides opposing strong renewable energy goals – was raising fuel efficiency standards to 31.8 miles per gallon by 2015 and 35 mpg by 2020. The administration repeatedly trumpeted their goal:
— BUSH: My proposal at the State of the Union will further improve standards for light trucks and take a similar approach to automobiles. With good legislation, we could save up to 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline per year by 2017, and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.
— DANA PERINO: While the president’s alternative fuel standard and CAFE proposal would have gone farther and faster we are pleased that Congress has worked together on a bipartisan way.
The White House’s recently released “Highlights of Accomplishments and Results” document also touts the new fuel efficiency standard: “In 2007, the President called for modernizing fuel economy standards and increasing alternative fuels.”
But the President can no longer stake claim to even this mild environmental achievement. Bush “won’t finish implementing new vehicle fuel-economy rules,” leaving it up to Obama to finalize the guidelines. The Dept. of Transportation stated:
The Bush Administration will not finalize its rulemaking on Corporate Fuel Economy Standards. The recent financial difficulties of the automobile industry will require the next administration to conduct a thorough review of matters affecting the industry, including how to effectively implement the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).
The move is particularly ironic. While it is designed to lift a burden off Detroit, the auto industry is criticizing it. “Any delay in finalizing the regulation will make finalizing future manufacturing plans more difficult,” said Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “We had expected that these rules would have been finalized last year.”
As dismal as the Bush environmental legacy is, the punt ensures that Bush will have accomplished virtually nothing on energy and the environment. But there is a bright spot, as the delay “gives the Obama administration an opportunity to move quickly” on fuel standards, notes Luke Tonachel of the Natural Resources Defense Council.