2002 Scorecard Vote
America's cars and light trucks consume 8 million barrels of oil every day--an estimated 40 percent of 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 vehicle mileage-per-gallon of new cars and light trucks.
Under the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards currently in place, each manufacturer's fleet of light trucks, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans and pickup trucks, is required to meet a standard of 20.7 miles per gallon; cars must meet a 27.5 miles per gallon standard. Despite significant technological advances, neither Congress nor the Department of Transportation has significantly raised these CAFE standards in more than two decades. Pickup trucks, in particular, remain among the least efficient vehicles on the road: the average pickup truck manages only 16.8 miles per gallon, while releasing more than 100 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over its lifetime.
The Senate energy bill (S. 517) included a provision, authored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC) to increase the CAFE standard for each manufacturer's fleet of cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2013. This increase could save 2.53 million barrels of oil a day--as much oil as the U.S. currently imports from the Persian Gulf--and would prevent the release of some 500 million tons of carbon dioxide.
To encourage bipartisan support, Senator Kerry reached a compromise with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and planned to offer it as an amendment on the Senate floor. The Kerry-McCain amendment would have raised the standard to 36 mpg by 2015, which would have saved 2 million barrels per day by 2020. However, instead, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Christopher "Kit" Bond (D-MO) introduced an amendment to strike the Kerry-Hollings provision and direct the Department of Transportation to set a new standard within 15 months. Conservationists argued that the department already has this authority and has conspicuously failed to exercise it. On March 13, 2002, the Senate passed the Levin-Bond amendment by a 62-38 vote (Senate roll call vote 47). NO is the pro-environment vote.
Immediately thereafter, Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) proposed an amendment to prevent any future increase in fuel economy standards for pickup trucks. After only ten minutes of debate, the Senate voted to pass the Miller amendment by a 56-44 vote (Senate roll call vote 48). NO is the pro-environment vote.
Recognizing that the energy bill in its current form offered no savings in oil consumption, Senators Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) later introduced an amendment that would have required the Transportation Department to reduce the oil consumption of cars and light trucks by at least 1 million barrels per day by 2015. While the amendment did not set a specific CAFE target, conservationists considered it an important step toward protecting America's energy security and environment. However, Senator Levin moved to table (kill) the Carper amendment. On April 25, 2002, the Senate voted to kill the Carper-Specter amendment by a 57-42 vote (Senate roll call vote 90). NO is the pro-environment vote. At press time the House and Senate conference on the energy package had not produced a final bill.