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For Immediate Release, August 18, 2008


Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (951) 961-7972
Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938 (cell)

Conservation Group Uncovers More Holes in
Proposed National Gas-mileage Standards;
Court of Appeals Denies Government's Request to
Revisit Decision Overturning Previous Standards

SAN FRANCISCO— In comments filed today, the Center for Biological Diversity highlighted legally fatal flaws in the Bush administration’s latest inadequate fuel-economy standards for cars, pickups, and SUVs. The administration’s proposal and accompanying environmental review were systematically skewed in order to keep fuel-economy standards unreasonably low.

Today is the end of the official comment period on the proposal, which the administration will very likely push through prior to leaving office.

Also today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the administration’s request to revisit the court’s November 2007 decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The ruling was based in part on the administration’s failure to analyze the impact of the standards on greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming. Existing law requires the administration to set fuel-economy standards at the “maximum feasible level” and to fully analyze the environmental consequences of the standards chosen. In today’s ruling, the court affirmed the decision in every significant respect, making only minor modifications.

“As the Court of Appeals has affirmed, the law requires the Bush administration to set fuel-economy standards at the maximum feasible level in order to conserve oil, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and protect consumers from increasing energy prices,” said Kassie Siegel, climate program director for the Center for Biological Diversity and an attorney on the case. “Yet the administration’s current proposal still allows oil use and greenhouse gas emissions to spiral upwards while protecting nothing but the profits of the oil and auto industries.”

The standards proposed for model years 2011-2015 are shown in this chart:

Table 1 : Proposed Fuel Economy Standards for MY 2011-2015 (miles per gallon). From 73 Fed. Reg. 24352, 24355 (May 2, 2008).


MY 2011

MY 2012

MY 2013

MY 2014

MY 2015

Passenger Cars






Light Trucks












“According to the Bush administration, we should strive to achieve lower fuel economy in 2015 than cars on the road achieve today,” said Mickey Moritz, another Center staff member who works on the issue. “We can and must do better, and we will hold this administration accountable for complying with the law and requiring automakers to provide state-of-the-art, fuel-efficient vehicles.”

The administration kept the proposed standards low by employing numerous assumptions that defy common sense and violate the law. For example:

  • Administration officials assumed that gas will cost $2.36 per gallon in 2020 and $2.51 in 2030. The use of today’s gas prices would have dramatically changed the proposed standard. According to the administration’s own analysis, increasing gas prices by 88 cents per gallon in 2016 would have increased the gas-mileage standard by nearly 7 mpg for passenger cars.
  • The officials also assumed that technological solutions available today, such as the use of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, cannot be employed by automakers for model years 2011-2015.
  • And the officials assumed that automakers need not and will not change their existing vehicle redesign schedules in order to provide more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Because the transportation sector accounts for approximately one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, reducing emissions from cars and trucks is a critical step towards solving the climate crisis. Leading climate scientists warn that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations must be reduced in short order to below 350 parts per million, from the current level of over 385 ppm, in order to prevent devastating climate change. A continued “business as usual” attitude will trigger extinction of up to 70 percent of plant and animal species, catastrophic sea-level rise, and other global weather and ecosystem changes that will cause tragic human suffering, climate scientists say.

“The administration’s unreasonably low vehicle-mileage standards block common-sense measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks,” Siegel said. “If the administration approves another set of inadequate fuel standards, we will once again challenge them in court.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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