The U.S. Senate has passed an energy bill that includes an amendment calling for a National Tire Fuel Efficiency Program.
Repeating a maneuver from two years ago, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., offered the amendment on the Senate floor, and the bill passed with his amendment intact.
The senator's amendment is identical to his previous measure and also to the bill that passed in California two years ago. It would require the establishment of fuel-economy standards requiring replacement tires be at least as fuel-efficient as original equipment tires.
The standards must not interfere with tire safety, treadlife or scrap tire management and must incorporate results from both laboratory testing and on-road fleet testing programs conducted by tire manufacturers, the amendment states. They also must be technically feasible and cost-effective for consumers. The minimum standards are to be reviewed every three years and revised as necessary to ensure compliance with the law, but they cannot be reduced.
``Most current replacement tires are between 20- and 60-percent less efficient than the original tires auto makers equip cars with to help meet federal fuel economy standards,'' according to a June 21 press release from Sen. Schumer's office. ``For an extra $5 to $12 per set of replacement tires, the average motorist can reduce his or her gasoline consumption by 1.5 to 4.5 percent, saving $50 to $150 over the life of the tires.''
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA)-which already is fighting a California-style tire fuel-efficiency bill in Massachusetts (see related story above)-opposes the Schumer amendment.
Tires account for only 4 percent of the fuel energy used by any vehicle, the RMA said in a press release. ``Lowering a tire's rolling resistance results in tire performance trade-offs that include less treadlife and decreased traction performance,'' it added.
Both the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) are studying whether a mandate for lower rolling resistance will affect treadlife, traction or the number of scrap tires generated every year, the RMA noted. It suggested that standard-setting would be unwise until the results of these studies are available.
The CEC already has placed the same strictures on implementation of a tire fuel-efficiency standard that the Schumer amendment would do, the association said. The NAS, meanwhile, has estimated that fuel savings from a low-rolling-resistance standard only would be 1 to 1.5 percent, it added.
The House of Representatives passed its version of the energy bill last April-without a tire fuel-efficiency amendment. Now a House-Senate conference will have to negotiate a mutually acceptable legislative package.