Back in July, when the Senate passed a bill that would raise CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 as part of comprehensive energy legislation, we warned not to count your fuel-efficient chickens before they hatch. And sure enough, the bill languished for over two months as Senate leaders negotiated the details. Luckily, with oil hovering around $100 a barrel, even the recalcitrant congressman from Michigan, John D. Dingell, who had previously opposed increasing mileage standards, can see the wisdom of improving fuel economy. So with Dingell on board (pun intended), Congress was able to announce late last night a proposal that would improve overall fleet efficiency by 40% by 2020.The bill maintains the original 35 MPG goal, but also includes some compromises, such as incentives designed to save an estimated 17,000 U.S. auto jobs, and drops a provision that would have taxed oil companies to the tune of $16 billion a year. The compromises are designed to avoid a potential Bush veto threat as well as placate Detroit. Amazingly, even as they continue to lose market share to more fuel-efficient foreign competition, the Big Three have stuck with the message that the new rules will cost them money in the long run. Meanwhile, Toyota is having their cake and eating it too: on the one hand, branding themselves as a green company with their popular Prius, and on the other, opposing the very legislation that would make Detroit more competitive. That the Big Three view these new rules as a burden, and not an opportunity, is indicative of why they have fallen so far behind in the first place.
Democrats are already hailing the bill as "an historic advancement" that will pave the way for carbon legislation in the coming year. So will this unleash a chain reaction of legislation culminating in some sort of cap on carbon? Maybe, but first lawmakers have to hammer out some other aspects of the bill and then actually pass it. After all, we can expect stiff opposition from the usual suspects, who are afraid that Congress is actually getting serious about climate change and, worst of all, learning how to strike a deal that satisfies everyone involved.
Via ::NY Times