WASHINGTON-Congress has once again barred the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from using any of its funds to issue a rule requiring rolling resistance/fuel economy grading for tires. For the second straight year, the anti-rolling resistance provision was placed in the Department of Transportation appropriations bill. The DOT bill for fiscal year 1997 passed the House 395-19 and the Senate 85-14 on the same day, Sept. 18. The bill goes to President Clinton for signing.
It was President Clinton who, in October 1993, made a rolling resistance grade part of his Global Climate Action Plan to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
Michelin North America recommended the new grade to the Clinton administration. Establishing such a grade for replacement tires, Michelin said, would prevent the emission of as much as 1.5 million cubic tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while saving millions of barrels of oil.
The rest of the tire industry, however, estimated such a grade would cost tire makers $100 million-mostly for changing tire molds-and said it would force them to compromise traction and treadwear for the sake of low rolling resistance.
NHTSA eventually proposed replacing the temperature resistance grade of the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System with a rolling resistance grade. This proposal occasioned several public debates, at NHTSA headquarters and elsewhere. Passage of the DOT bill, however, made the issue moot.
``Congress is still concerned about the benefits of a rolling resistance grade being somewhat speculative in relation to treadwear- and traction-related tradeoffs, as well as the costs involved,'' said Brooks Bowen of Multinational Business Services Inc., which coordinated lobbying efforts for the tire industry against the proposed grade.