WASHINGTON -- Oil is $60 a barrel. Gasoline costs nearly $3 a gallon in some places. At the same time, advocates of higher federal fuel economy standards are losing ground.
Late last week, the Senate voted 67-28 to kill a proposal that would have boosted Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.
This year's CAFE standards are 27.5 mpg for cars and 21.0 mpg for light trucks. The defeated proposal would have increased those standards in increments by 2017, to 40.0 mpg for cars and 27.5 mpg for light trucks.
The vote last week provided a greater margin of defeat than the Senate's 62-38 vote against a slightly tougher plan in 2002.
The latter vote followed a full-court industry press against higher CAFE mandates. It caused some environmental groups to focus instead on state measures to limit vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.
Last week's Senate debate was more perfunctory. But the vote was still significant. As a result, legislation intended to deal comprehensively with the nation's energy production and use will not directly address vehicle fuel consumption.
Nearly half of the 20 million barrels of oil Americans use each day goes for transportation.