US tightens truck, SUV fuel curbs

Rules reflect concerns about supply, costs of foreign energy

BALTIMORE -- The government set tighter gas mileage rules yesterday for pickups and sport utility vehicles, including SUVs like the Hummer H2 and Chevrolet Suburban, responding to rising concern about the supply and cost of energy from abroad.

The new fuel economy rules, covering 2008 through 2011, would save 10.7 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicles sold during that period and take a more aggressive stance than an administration proposal issued last summer, officials said.

''The new standards represent the most ambitious fuel economy goals for light trucks ever developed in the program's 27-year history," said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

Mineta said the plan was ''pragmatic" and devised with jobs and costs in mind, along with the benefits of conserving fuel. Automakers will need to closely scrutinize their products to meet the standards, which are the most sweeping to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) system in three decades.

The new rules do not apply to passenger cars, which must meet a 27.5 mile per gallon average.

Under the CAFE system, automakers now must meet an average of 21.6 miles per gallon for their 2006 model year light trucks. That average will rise to 22.2 mpg for 2007 vehicles.

Under the new rules, the fleetwide average would reach 24 mpg by 2011, when the largest SUVs will be included in the calculation. The program will be phased in through 2010, with automakers having the option of complying under the old system or new system.

If firms use the old system, the targets would be 22.5 mpg in 2008, 23.1 mpg in 2009, and 23.5 mpg in 2010. All firms would need to use the new system in 2011.