A congressional conference committee considering separate Senate and House energy bills has dropped an amendment calling for a National Tire Fuel Efficiency Program, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which had lobbied against it.
The amendment had been added to the Senate energy bill by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., repeating a maneuver he tried two years ago.
An RMA spokesman said the single version of the bill was to be sent to Congress for a vote. The House passed the bill July 28, and the Senate was expected to vote July 29. Congress goes on recess in August.
The spokesman said July 28 that the RMA got a final copy of the draft amendment assuring that the information from House committee staffers was indeed accurate.
``You just want to make sure someone put a big black X through that whole section and that transferred to the next clean copy,'' the spokesman said. The RMA's copy shows the amendment out of the bill, he said.
During the course of the debate in the conference committee, the RMA said, the tire efficiency provision was changed to include unnecessary and burdensome reporting requirements that would have been in addition to those already required by the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act.
The RMA lobbied several senators and representatives to have the provision removed from the bill. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chaired the committee.
Mr. Schumer had said that most replacement tires are 20- to 60-percent less efficient than original equipment tires and that motorists could reduce gasoline consumption by 1.5 to 4.5 percent, or $50 to $150 over the life of the tires.
The RMA retorted that tires account for only 4 percent of the fuel energy used by any vehicle. Additionally, studies are ongoing to consider whether a mandate for lower rolling resistance will affect treadlife or the number of scrap tires generated every year, and the association said Congress should wait until those studies are complete before passing bills.
The RMA spokesman said the prospects are slim that the tire efficiency proposal could come up again for Congress.
``The fact that it appears to be beaten back now bodes well for any future attempt,'' he said.
Its defeat also could add strength to the RMA's effort to fight a similar bill introduced in Massachusetts. That law would require the state to ensure that the replacement tires sold within its borders were at least as fuel efficient as the tires on new vehicles and to mandate a labeling program to educate consumers.
The bill is working its way through legislative committees, and no action is likely until at least fall, the RMA spokesman said.
The RMA hopes to persuade Massachusetts legislators to scrub the bill in light of Congress' abandonment of it.
``Every victory counts because it's another arrow in the quiver,'' he said.
Tire Business special projects reporter Bruce Davis contributed to this story.