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Fuel Economy

Senate Roll Call No. 309
108th Congress, 1st Session

Rejected: 32-65 (see complete tally)
America’s cars and light trucks consume 8 million barrels of oil every day—more than 40 percent of total U.S. oil consumption. Each gallon of gasoline burned produces 28 pounds of carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming. American vehicles account for 20 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions—and the U.S. is the largest global warming polluter on the planet. The U.S. could substantially reduce both its dependence on oil and its carbon dioxide emissions by raising the miles-per-gallon of new cars and trucks.

Under the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, each manufacturer’s fleet of light trucks, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans and pickup trucks, is required to meet a standard of only 20.7 miles per gallon; cars must meet a higher 27.5 miles per gallon standard. Despite significant technological advances, no administration or Congress has significantly raised these CAFE standards in more than two decades. The Bush administration recently announced a small increase in the light truck standards, from 20.7 to 22.2 mpg by 2007. As increasing numbers of gas-guzzling SUVs and other light trucks have replaced cars on the nation’s highways, the fuel economy of new vehicles has sunk to its lowest level since 1980.

During consideration of the Senate energy bill (S. 14), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) proposed an amendment to raise the CAFE standard for cars and light trucks to 40 miles per gallon by 2015. The amendment included an exception for pickup trucks, which would have to achieve only 27.5 miles per gallon by 2015. This improvement would have saved 3.1 million barrels of oil a day—combined, as much oil as the U.S. currently imports from the Persian Gulf and could extract from the Arctic refuge and the California outer continental shelf—and would have prevented the release of more than 500 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

On July 29, 2003, the Senate rejected the Durbin amendment by a 32-65 vote (Senate roll call vote 309). YES is the pro-environment vote. The Senate instead passed the an amendment sponsored by Senators Bond (R-MO) and Levin (D-MI) to extend an expiring loophole that allows automakers to make fewer high-mileage cars if they make vehicles that are capable of running on both ethanol and gasoline. But because few of these vehicles actually run on ethanol, in part because less than 200 of the nation’s 176,000 gas stations carry ethanol, the amendment would actually increase oil dependence by at least 9 billion gallons of oil by 2008, according to the Bush administration’s own research. The Bond-Levin amendment also added new hurdles for the Department of Transportation to surmount when setting future CAFE standards. This amendment was included in the House-Senate conference report of the energy bill, which has been approved by the House but not the Senate.

Vote Map: Senate Roll Call No. 309
Votes For : 32
Votes Against : 65
Not Voting : 3


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