The Future Of Fuel
Because of the initiative taken by our domestic automakers, we have a better choice in alternative-fuel technology. Ethanol, biofuels and renewable energy sources free from harmful emissions are the future.
History shows that simply mandating overly aggressive fuel economy standards does not work. When first passed more than three decades ago, CAFE regulations forced automakers to reduce consumer choice by focusing on cars and trucks that were smaller, less powerful, less safe and more expensive, proving that CAFE was, at best, limited in its effectiveness.
During its fuel economy debate, the House of Representatives will have to make a decision that will have a lasting impact on our domestic auto industry and energy future. Several competing bills have been introduced, and members have a clear choice between fuel economy legislation that provides for a reasonable increase in CAFE standards with a strong emphasis on alternative fuel development, or legislation that focuses solely on CAFE standards, which will cripple an industry that is too important to the U.S. economy. Some 13 million auto and related industry jobs are at stake.
One House bill under consideration is similar to an already passed Senate bill introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), which would force automakers to divert scarce alternative-energy resources to retool engines that will still rely on gasoline at the end of the day. However, the United Auto Workers union says the bill could cost 17,000 jobs.
A more balanced option is available with Hill-Terry legislation (H.R. 2927) and has strong bipartisan support. While still increasing CAFE standards, it does so at a reasonable rate determined by the Department of Transportation, adding just two years to the timeline for vehicle compliance. But those two years allow the U.S. auto industry to continue investing in critical alternative-fuel technology.
Looking Ahead, Not Back
The House can join the Senate in expanding regulations that promise limited value while placing even more strain on the backbone of the American economy. Or it can make a bold, balanced and better choice to support consumers, the environment and workers who are already building our clean energy future.
Simply put, as Congress tries to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and to develop alternative-energy policies, undue reliance on CAFE standards would be a 20th century response to a 21st century problem. For additional information, visit the Web site at www.drivingamericasfuture.com.
Rodney E. Slater is the former Secretary of Transportation and current chairman for Driving America's Future, a coalition of industry and consumers promoting the future of alternative fuels to reduce gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Developing alternative-fuel vehicles has to be an important part of reducing the nation's depen-dence on foreign oil.