WASHINGTON-The House Energy and Commerce Committee has passed five energy conservation bills, including two related to auto fuel economy and one to create a national tire fuel efficiency consumer information program.
All the bills passed by voice vote June 20, as did an amendment to the tire bill sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. The amendment ensured the national fuel efficiency program didn´t pre-empt the California replacement tire fuel efficiency law passed in 2003.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, which backs the House fuel efficiency bill, agreed to support the Eshoo amendment to expedite the legislative process, according to an RMA spokesman.
Sponsored by Reps. John Shimkus, R-Ill.; Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.; and Tom Allen, D-Maine, the bill mandates the establishment of a national tire fuel efficiency rating system for passenger tires. Among its requirements would be a program for providing information to consumers, including point-of-sale dissemination and the Internet; specifications for testing tire fuel efficiency; and a national consumer education program on proper tire maintenance.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would be responsible for promulgating the fuel efficiency program rules.
The RMA backed the legislation as an alternative to the harsher tire fuel efficiency mandates sponsored by Engel and by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. The association sent letters to every member of the Energy and Commerce Committee June 19, urging passage of the bill.
According to the letter, a national tire fuel efficiency program would save up to 2 billion gallons of fuel annually, the equivalent of removing 4 million cars and light trucks from service.
The House bill probably will reach the House floor through its extension calendar, which requires a two-thirds vote for passage and is reserved for non-controversial bills. If passed there, it will move to the Senate.
"In the Senate, we hope to work through the legislative process to achieve an even more favorable bill," the RMA spokesman said.
The California law establishes a mandate to make replacement tires at least as fuel-efficient as original equipment tires. The California Energy Commission is doing a feasibility study of the requirement, to be released later this year.
In April 2005, the Transportation Research Board within the National Research Board of the National Academies released a report on tire fuel efficiency.
That report stated reducing the rolling resistance of replacement tires by 10 percent would not appreciably compromise tire safety. Doing so, however, would be worthwhile only if the resultant fuel savings outstripped any possible loss of tire service life.
Among the other bills Energy and Commerce passed June 20, one directed the Department of Energy to use fines collected from auto makers for violating corporate average fuel economy standard to build a network of fueling stations for E85 ethanol-based motor fuel.
More than 6 million vehicles on the road today can use E85, but only about 800 E85 fueling stations exist throughout the U.S., the committee said. CAFE penalties in 2004 totaled more than $20 million, it added.
Another bill would create a partnership between the Department of Energy, oil companies and auto makers to educate consumers about conserving fuel.