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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - May 18, 2006)

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Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I rise today with my good friend and colleague from Mississippi, Senator LOTT, to introduce legislation to reform and raise the corporate average fuel economy standard for the first time since its inception over 30 years ago.

In 1975 this body passed, as a part of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the very first fuel economy standards for our passenger car fleet, setting a standard that all manufacturers must achieve 27.5 miles per gallon. This was done in response to the first oil embargo and the energy crisis of the early 1970s. Americans realized for the first time that we as a nation must set and achieve attainable goals for energy conservation, not only for our economic security but also for our national security.

At that time, the fuel economy of passenger cars averaged around 14 miles per gallon. Ten years after CAFE was enacted, the fuel economy of passenger cars had almost doubled, saving an estimated 2.8 million barrels of oil a day. There can be no doubts as to the benefits of the original CAFE standard. Still 20 years after reaching this peak around 1985, the fuel economy of the Nation's passenger car fleet has stagnated. Some have even argued the fleet of vehicles entering the marketplace today gets less fuel economy than those models in 1985. While fuel efficient technology has improved over the years, the fuel economy of the Nation's passenger fleet has not. Also today, our dependence on oil is greater than ever before. This dependence has complicated decisions we make as a country, such as foreign policy decisions, and as individuals, such as whether or not to fill up your gas tank or buy groceries.

I believe we must do better for families in Arkansas and around the Nation. We must protect our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and uncomplicating our foreign policy decision-making in oil-rich regions. We must protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We must reduce the cost of transportation for consumers. We must begin implementing more stringent CAFE standards now before these problems worsen. Gasoline is over 70 cents higher than this time last year, and the number of miles driven by every American over the age of 16 has risen over 60 percent since 1970--and is continuing to climb at a rapid pace.

This is why I have joined my colleague and worked in a bipartisan manner to introduce comprehensive CAFE reform. For over 30 years the original CAFE standard has remained in place while a rapidly advancing marketplace and rapidly advancing technology have left it behind. Each time fuel economy standards have been debated in this body, they have been mired in partisan politics resulting in nothing but stalemate.

Senator LOTT and I are choosing progress over politics with our common sense legislation, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Reform Act of 2006. The bill will help accomplish our national security and energy conservation goals while preserving motor vehicle safety, American manufacturing jobs, and consumer choice for vehicles.

Specifically, it will clarify the authority of the Secretary of Transportation to raise and reform CAFE standards. It requires the Secretary to begin the reform process within 60 days in addition to requiring the Secretary to complete an expedited rulemaking to immediately amend the current CAFE standard before a reformed standard takes effect.

For the first time, it will require the Secretary to consider greenhouse gas emissions when promulgating a CAFE standard as well as require the Secretary to obtain comments from the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on the impact of any new rule on the environment.

Our legislation also gives automobile manufacturers more flexibility in the way they can apply CAFE credits in order to help them preserve American jobs. It preserves the 18-month lead time required before the Secretary can issue more stringent CAFE standards. It also allows the Secretary to use the fines collected for violations of the CAFE standard for research and development of fuel saving technologies and to conduct CAFE rulemakings. Finally, our bill provides a backstop fuel economy average which no manufacturer can go below, regardless of their fleet mix.

There is no silver bullet in accomplishing our national security and energy goals, and we must seek short-term alternatives in addition to long-term solutions. CAFE reform is one part of a long-term solution to reduce our dependence on oil, but it is one that can have lasting impact. Still, I believe for the long-term security of our country, this is as good a place as any to start. We must start now.

I thank my colleague from the Commerce Committee, Senator LOTT, for his hard work on this bipartisan legislation. I look forward to working with him and the rest of my colleagues to ensure that this reform becomes law.

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