As per lots of media and online buzz over the last few days, and the latest dispatch from CNN, Congress is nearing a deal on what would essentially be a mini-energy bill that focuses on renewable fuels and on raising CAFE standards for the first time in decades. Hill Heat has been providing comprehensive coverage as details have emerged. Depending on what gets worked out regarding auto emissions, the result could theoretically range from a flawed and incomplete-- but significant-- step forward to an unworkable poison pill.
Judging from the latest reports, it seems that almost all vehicles coming out of Detroit would become subject to a fleetwide average of 35 miles-per-gallon by 2020, but there would an exemption for large "work trucks" and the maintenance of separate standards for cars and trucks. Basically, the infamous "SUV loophole," which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled is the result of an arbitrary and capricious evaluation, would remain in some reduced form, though its actual details and impact remains unclear. Sources close to the negotiations believe that the 9th Circuit's opinion will help pin down regulators from undermining the overall gains in efficiency in any significant way; we'll reserve judgment on this point until we've seen a draft of the proposed legislation.
More fundamentally troubling, and damning of the whole process even though it thankfully stands little chance of being agreed to, is the continued effort by the auto industry and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) to preempt bolder standards by California and other states, and undermine the Supreme Court's intent in Mass. v. EPA in the process. From Greenwire (subscription only):