I have always believed that our energy policy must incorporate a variety of approaches to achieve energy independence for the nation. Some of the key ways to do this are to improve the fuel efficiency of automobiles by raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and by providing automobile manufacturers with incentives to make technological advances that not only improve fuel efficiency, but that also maintain the safety standards of the cars, trucks and SUVs we drive.
The CAFE standard of 27.5 mpg for cars has not been increased during the last 20 years, and the light truck standard has been increased only about 1 mpg in the same period. Congressional action has frozen CAFE standards since fiscal year 1996, and the fuel economy of the combined light duty fleet has now dropped to 24 mpg from its 1986-87 high of 25.9 mpg. Because SUVs are held to the less stringent light truck standard, their growing popularity has led to the decline in average fuel economy for the entire passenger fleet. Improving fuel economy will not only provide short-term savings for consumers by decreasing the amount they spend on fuel, but will also ensure an adequate energy supply for the long-term and reduce unhealthy air-polluting emissions, thus improving the quality of the air we breathe.