The Bush administration is doing the right thing by proposing fuel economy estimates for new cars and trucks that more closely reflect what motorists can expect. But the EPA shouldn't stop there. The overdue reform will be good for consumers, potentially good for the environment and even good for automakers -- provided car companies accept the change as an incentive to make vehicles less fuel-thirsty.
But the new methods of calculation seem to lack the sophistication needed to deal with emerging technologies, such as gasoline-electric hybrids. Nor does the EPA's proposal seem to give car buyers enough information about how advanced diesels, alternative fuels and other potential options compare in energy consumption.
The Bush administration is showing that it will respond to consumer and environmental interests when presented with cogent arguments and supporting data, not just shrill rants.
The environmental group Bluewater Network got the process started with a petition to the EPA. Others, including AAA and Consumers Union, helped prove that better estimates are needed.
The industry says it now favors improved vehicle labels, though, sadly, the automakers' main lobbying group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told the EPA that the old methodology didn't need changing.
The administration also has taken baby steps to toughen the corporate average fuel economy program, which sets the standards automaker fleets must meet. But more must be done. CAFE will not be affected by the pending changes in fuel economy estimates.
Our society needs continuous improvement in fuel economy. It's in everyone's best interest to reduce energy consumption and make sure that the improvements are measured accurately and communicated clearly to consumers.