The Bush administration was right to kill a program that required local government and private fleets to acquire alternative-fuel vehicles. It would have done little to reduce gasoline consumption.
Now it's time to eliminate the generous fuel economy credits automakers receive for producing vehicles capable of running on either gasoline or an alternative fuel. Typically, such vehicles are designed to use the ethanol-gasoline blend called E85, but most will never burn a drop of anything but gasoline.
The comprehensive energy bill pending in the U.S. Senate would extend the credit program for four years, through 2012. That would fly in the face of a recommendation from a National Academy of Sciences panel. Congress ordered the panel to make a top-to-bottom review of the federal corporate average fuel economy program.
The panel found: "The provision creating extra credits for multifuel vehicles has had, if any, a negative effect on fuel economy, petroleum consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and cost. These vehicles seldom use any fuel other than gasoline yet enable automakers to increase their production of less-fuel-efficient vehicles."
This year, General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler will earn credits for producing about a million of those vehicles that will do almost nothing to curb gasoline consumption. That's wrong.
At most, those vehicles foster a false impression about how much the three companies are improving fuel economy. That can breed contempt and cynicism about their real intentions.
Flexible-fuel CAFE credits are ineffective and counterproductive. It's time to get rid of them.