Committee Members Question Impact of President’s New Mileage Standards on Vehicle Safety, Economy

Jul 28, 2011

Washington D.C. – This evening, 14 Members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, led by Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Ben Quayle (R-AZ), respective Chairmen of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, sent a letter to the Administration requesting information related to the relationship between mileage standards and vehicle safety. 

Addressed to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, the letter was delivered in advance of President Obama’s expected announcement Friday morning mandating new increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards of as much as 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025.  “Implementation of this mandate would have a clear and significant impact on American consumers and the economy,” the lawmakers wrote.

A June 2011 study by the Center for Automotive Research found that compliance with a 56.2 mpg mandate would increase the average cost of a vehicle by over $6,700.  The letter notes that such a price increase would reduce demand, lower the number of cars built and sold, and negatively impact jobs in the auto industry.

The Members also raised serious concerns with how these new standards would impact vehicle safety, requesting specific information regarding the current scientific and technical understanding of safety-mileage tradeoffs.  In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences studied this issue and concluded that “the downsizing of automobiles in the 1970s and 1980s—whether a result of CAFE standards or other market-driven needs—may have contributed an additional 1,300 to 2,600 fatalities in 1993.”

The letter states, “The prospect of similar downsizing-related fatality increases resulting from an aggressive new mileage mandate warrants careful review and consideration.” 

The lawmakers requested clarification regarding the scientific and technical understanding of safety tradeoffs, any underlying expectations that future technologies will offset increased costs, and research needs to better understand the impact of increased CAFE standards.

To read the full letter CLICK HERE