One of the least controversial provisions of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-163) established corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for new passenger cars. As oil prices rose, there was little expectation that manufacturers would have any difficulty complying with the standards. However, oil prices softened and the demand for small cars diminished. In response to petitions from manufacturers facing stiff civil penalties for noncompliance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) relaxed the standard for model years 1986-1989. The current standard is 27.5 mpg for passenger automobiles and 20.7 mpg for light trucks, a classification that also includes sports utility vehicles (SUVs). Amidst the renewed sense of urgency about growing U.S. dependence upon imported oil, proposals to boost CAFE received close attention in the early nineties. An attempt to raise CAFE proved too controversial in the 102nd Congress to enact. The Clinton Administration supported greater fuel efficiency, but indicated in 1993 that an increase in the CAFE standards was not the option likeliest to be embraced first. In 1994 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to explore raising the CAFE standard for light-duty trucks. It is not clear whether renewed concerns about motor vehicle fuel consumption and/or the prospect of complying with international agreements for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will lead to reconsideration of the CAFE freeze.

  • Record URL:
  • Corporate Authors:

    Congressional Research Service

    Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, SE
    Resources, Science and Industry Division
    Washington, DC  United States  20540-7500
  • Authors:
    • Bamberger, R
  • Publication Date: 1999-8-9


  • English

Media Info

  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: 8 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00803663
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 27 2001 12:00AM