New Fuel Economy Standards Rollout Pushed Back to November

Last month we posted a Q&A with Automotive Fleet editor Mike Antich in which he spelled out the new proposed corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and what they mean for fleets. When announced by President Obama in July, the process of slowly weaning auto manufacturers onto the standards, which require the average fuel economy for cars and light trucks to increase to 54.5 mpg by 2025, was slated to begin this month.

Turns out that, in large part due to one California Congressman, the rollout will be pushed back to at least November. As the Detroit News reports, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.,) is pushing the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to unearth all e-mails between them and Detroit’s Big Three automakers made during negotiations, arguing that the agreement made months ago was “negotiated in secret, outside the scope of law, with potentially significant negative impacts for consumers.” Issa is also questioning the extent vehicle safety was considered when the government proposed the new CAFE standards.

Issa sent letters to major players in the automotive industry, including The White House, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the EPA administrator and to the CEOs of 14 top automakers, to get more information about the deal he says was made without input from the public.

The White House insists the public will have a voice in the actual writing of the new rules, allowing for “public comment,” and the NHTSA has delayed publishing the new CAFE standards until next month.

Will any of this change anything? Probably not.

All the major U.S. automakers have bought into the originally proposed regulations and it will be hard to convince businesses and individual consumers that increasing fuel standards to 54.5 mpg needs to be looked at again and possibly delayed further. Additionally, Representative Issa is seen as a future leader of the Republican Party and, in his new role as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in a unique position to challenge Obama on everything leading up to the 2012 election.