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JUNE 16, 1999  9:30 AM
US Public Interest Research Group
Katherine Silverthorne OR Liz Hitchcock, U.S. PIRG: (202)546-9707 Ann Mesnikoff, Sierra Club: (202)547-1141
US PIRG Report Documents 187 Million Tons of Excess Global Warming Pollution From SUVs and Other Light Trucks
WASHINGTON - June 16 - Americans could have reduced global warming pollution by 187 million tons per year and saved more than $13 billion if not for a loophole in miles per gallon laws for 45% of passenger vehicles sold last year, according to a report released today by U.S. PIRG. "Danger Ahead: Putting the Brakes on Global Warming Pollution" documents the excess global warming pollution, oil consumption, and gasoline expenditures caused by lower fuel economy standards for light trucks (a category comprised of Sport Utility Vehicles, minivans, and pick up trucks.)

"Sport Utility Vehicles and minivans donít have to be gas guzzlers," said Katherine Silverthorne, Director of U.S. PIRGís Campaign to Stop Global Warming. " Its time for automakers to stop taking advantage of the loophole in the miles per gallon standard and start making these vehicles go farther on a gallon of gas."

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set average miles per gallon requirements for cars at 27.5 miles per gallon and light trucks at 20.7 miles per gallon. The lower standards for trucks reflects the fact that, when the law was passed in the mid-70s, these vehicles were work trucks accounting for only a very small percentage of the vehicle fleet. Today, SUVs and other light trucks are frequently purchased as family cars and made up almost 45 percent of passenger cars sold last year. Because of the large number of SUVs and other light trucks sold, new vehicle average fuel economy is worse than it was 15 years ago.

"Increasing miles per gallon standards is the biggest single step we can take to curb global warming and save oil," said Ann Mesnikoff, Washington DC Representative for Sierra Club. "Taking the first step of closing the SUV CAFE loophole can save millions of barrels of oil, billions of dollars, and keep millions of tons of global warming pollution out of the atmosphere."

U.S. PIRGís report documents the following benefits if light trucks, SUVs and mini-vans met the same fuel economy standards as cars:

  • Global warming pollution could have been reduced by 187 million per year. This is equal to about 15% of total emissions from cars and light trucks.
  • The average light truck, SUV or minivan owner could have saved $206 per year at the gas pump.
  • SUV, minivan and other light truck owners across the U.S. could have saved a total of $13 billion per year at the gas pump.
  • Oil consumption could have been reduced by about 336 million barrels - almost a million barrels per day.

In 1994, the Department of Transportation (DOT) began the process of closing the light truck loophole when it issued an advanced notice that it was considering raising the light truck standard to the same level as the standard for cars. The auto industry fought this move as they have many other environmental and safety improvements. Due to efforts by auto industry lobbyists, a rider prohibiting DOT from increasing CAFE standards has been attached to the DOT funding bill for the past four years. 1999 marks the fifth year in a row that members of the House of Representatives have attached such a "CAFE-freeze" rider to DOTís funding.

"Auto industry supporters in Congress must stop these back door attacks on miles per gallon standards," said Silverthorne "If we close the loophole in miles per gallon standards, curbing global warming pollution will save American families $13 billion per year."

On May 27th -- the same day that the House subcommittee, under the chairmanship of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), voted to pass a bill containing the CAFE-freeze rider for the fifth year in a row -- a bipartisan group of 31 Senators sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to work with Congress to increase CAFE standards. These 31 Senators plus another 11 who voted in the past to increase the standards could sustain a presidential veto of a bill containing the CAFE-freeze rider.

"These 31 Senators deserve recognition for supporting a policy that shows that curbing global warming pollution can save money for American families. U.S. PIRG calls on President Clinton and Congress to reject the CAFE-freeze rider, and urges President Clinton to use his authority to close the loophole and raise CAFE standards once the rider has been defeated," concluded Silverthorne.

# # #

U.S. PIRG is the national office for the State Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan consumer and environmental watchdog groups active across the country.

In March , U.S. PIRG released a report detailing another loophole in legal standards that allows SUVs to emit 3 times more smog-forming nitrogen oxides than the average car. The report showed that closing this loophole could avoid 1.2 million tons of smog-forming pollution each year.
This report is available at:


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