ABC News’ Lisa Stark Reports: With gas prices falling and the car companies tanking, the Bush administration said Wednesday it was not going to move forward with a final rule raising fuel efficiency standards.
The Department of Transportation said in a statement today that "the recent financial difficulties of the automobile industry will require the next administration to conduct a thorough review of matters affecting the industry" — including the new proposed fuel standards.
The decision came as a surprise to the industry, which was expecting a final rule before President Bush left office.
"Any delay in finalizing the regulation will make finalizing future manufacturing plans more difficult," said Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
When asked if manufactures were concerned that the Obama administration might now increase fuel efficiency standards even more than proposed under President Bush, Territo said, "I think the Obama administration has said they are committed to science and I think we share a believe with the administration that standards should be set at the maximum feasible based on science."
Just what that number is has been the subject of much heated debate, with consumer and environmental groups disagreeing with auto manufacturers about what’s feasible when it comes to miles per gallon.
Under current regulations, passenger cars must average 27.5 miles per gallon, while SUV’s and other light trucks average 23.1 miles per gallon. Under the rules proposed by the Department of Transportation, that would increase to 35.7 miles per gallon for cars by 2015, and 28.6 miles per gallon for light trucks.
The new fuel economy rule does not have to be finalized until April of this year.