When I read stories like this, it reminds me of everything I hate about his administration, everything I hate about the Republican party, and everything I hate about politics in general:
With Congress poised for a final vote on the energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency made an 11th-hour decision Tuesday to delay the planned release of an annual report on fuel economy.
But a copy of the report, embargoed for publication Wednesday, was sent to The New York Times by a member of the E.P.A. communications staff just minutes before the decision was made to delay it until next week. The contents of the report show that loopholes in American fuel economy regulations have allowed automakers to produce cars and trucks that are significantly less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980’s.
Releasing the report this week would have been inopportune for the Bush administration, its critics said, because it would have come on the eve of a final vote in Congress on energy legislation six years in the making. The bill, as it stands, largely ignores auto mileage regulations.
The executive summary of the copy of the report obtained by The Times acknowledges that “fuel economy is directly related to energy security,” because consumer cars and trucks account for about 40 percent of the nation’s oil consumption. But trends highlighted in the report show that carmakers are not making progress in improving fuel economy, and environmentalists say the energy bill will do little to prod them.
“Something’s fishy when the Bush administration delays a report showing no improvement in fuel economy until after passage of their energy bill, which fails to improve fuel economy,” said Daniel Becker, the Sierra Club’s top global warming strategist. “It’s disturbing that despite high gas prices, an oil war and growing concern about global warming pollution, most automakers are failing to improve fuel economy.”
Eryn Witcher, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., said the timing of the release of the report had nothing to do with the energy bill deliberations.
“We are committed to sharing our scientific studies with the public in the most comprehensive and understandable format possible,” she said. “Issue experts are reviewing the fuel economy data and we look forward to providing a summary of the information next week.”
Some of what the report says reaffirms what has long been known. Leaps in engine technology over the last couple of decades have been mostly used to make cars faster, not more fuel-efficient, and the rise of sport utility vehicles and S.U.V.-like pickup trucks has actually sapped efficiency. The average 2004 model car or truck got 20.8 miles per gallon, about 6 percent less than the 22.1 m.p.g. of the average new vehicle sold in the late 1980’s, according to the report.
At the same time, while General Motors and the Ford Motor Company are the most common targets of environmental groups, the E.P.A. report shows that several foreign automakers have had the sharpest declines in recent fuel economy performance as they move aggressively into the truck market.
If this story is true, there you have it- Washington in a nutshell. This administration in a nutshell.
I personally don’t care what the Bush administration’s overall position on CAFE standards is- there are legitimate arguments that there should be none in the first place. Fine. Make that argument. But make it honestly, and make it on the merits. Don’t delay reports, massage the truth, connive, manipulate, and procrastinate.
This energy bill will be addressing issues that go well beyond driving your car to work or heating your house, as energy becomes more of a national security issue tha it ever was, so an honest argument shouldn’t be too much to ask for from leadership. This bill will influence behavior, impact the tax code, and shape the very future of the nation.
This energy bill is already several years late- an extra month is really inconsequential. If it is true that the reasons for delaying the release of this report are purely political, that may be smart politics, but it is also bad leadership, bad management, and a breach of faith.
It is the type of behavior I would suspect would come from the Morris-led Clinton White House, but it is behavior I have grown to expect from the Bush administration.
*** Update ***
The energy bill passes. Yeah, team. We can move to discredit the EPA report later. Gotta have priorities.