On the CBS Evening News, CBS Washington correspondent Bob Orr reported that President Bush "asked Congress to give him the authority to raise the mileage requirement for cars." This is at least the second time CBS neglected to mention that support of higher mileage standards is a significant shift by a White House that, as recently as February, opposed increasing efficiency standards for passenger cars.
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On the May 9 edition of the CBS Evening News, CBS Washington correspondent Bob Orr reported that President Bush "asked Congress to give him the authority to raise the mileage requirement for cars." But Orr's report marked at least the second time that CBS neglected to mention that support of higher mileage standards is a significant shift by a White House that, as recently as February, opposed increasing efficiency standards for passenger cars.
Orr was apparently referring to Bush's April 27 endorsement of a provision in the Republican-proposed "Gas Price Relief and Rebate Act of 2006," which would give the transportation secretary, a cabinet-level official in the executive branch, "the authority to issue a rule governing fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles." Under current law, the executive branch can set fuel-efficiency standards for light trucks, but only Congress can set fuel-efficiency standards for cars. As Media Matters for America has noted (here and here), Bush opposed raising fuel-efficiency standards for cars as recently as February.
Further, it is unclear what Bush would do to regulate fuel efficiency in cars if Congress grants him the authority to change it. As The Washington Post reported on April 28, while Bush "renewed his call for Congress to give him the authority to 'raise' mileage standards for all passenger cars," White House officials acknowledged that they "didn't know when or how the president would use that authority."
From the May 9 broadcast of the CBS Evening News:
BOB SCHIEFFER (anchor): Members of Congress stepped up the pressure on the Bush administration today to force automakers to build vehicles that get better gas mileage. Bob Orr now with that.
ORR: The last time the federal government raised mileage requirements, these cars were new. Since 1990, each automaker has had to meet a fuel economy standard of 27 1/2 miles per gallon. Compacts can get more and big cars less, but a fleet must average 27 1/2. Of course, in the early '90s, gasoline was just over a buck a gallon. Now, with gas prices in the passing lane and fall elections looming, senators today hammered Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta for moving too slowly to raise the mileage standard.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): People are smart, and they see what they're paying, and they know we've done nothing.
ORR: By "we" she means Congress, too, which until now has shown no real interest in raising fuel efficiency. In March, the Bush administration ordered a modest increase for SUVs, which will be required to get 24 miles a gallon by 2011, up from 21.6 now. And last month, the president asked Congress to give him the authority to raise the mileage requirement for cars, a process Mineta says would take years to complete.
MINETA: Under the rules, we have to give notice to the manufacturers 18 months ahead of the model year.
ORR: Even Republicans weren't satisfied.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R-ME): And so we're not hearing any timelines. We're not hearing how much. We're not hearing anything.
ORR: Carmakers are already building fuel-efficient cars, like the Toyota Corolla, which gets 34 miles to the gallon. The problem is they're also still building gas guzzlers. With gasoline averaging nearly $3 a gallon, mileage standards make for an easy political soapbox, but it's anybody's guess how much gas will cost by the time the government gets around to actually doing something. Bob Orr, CBS News, Washington.