U.S. vehicles rank bottom in world fuel efficiency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States ranks at the bottom of industrialized countries in vehicle fuel-economy standards, but would jump far up the list if legislation to boost mileage requirements clears Congress and is signed into law, according to a report released on Monday.

The report comes as the House of Representatives will debate energy legislation this week, and some lawmakers want to tack on language to significantly increase the miles American cars and trucks travel on a gallon a gasoline.

U.S. fuel-efficiency requirements for passenger cars have been stuck at 27.5 miles per gallon since 1985, while the standard for pickups, minivans and other light trucks will increase from 20.7 mpg in 2004 to 24 mpg in 2011.

That puts the United States behind Canada, South Korea, Australia, China, Europe Union and Japan in vehicle fuel economy, according to the report from the International Council on Clean Transportation. A copy of the report was obtained by Reuters.

The group is made up of transportation and air-quality experts from around the world that promote fuel-efficient vehicles. Cars and trucks that burn less gasoline would also spew fewer carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming.

“We’re weakest in the world, and therefore we use more gas and we emit more carbon dioxide emissions,” said Drew Kodjak, the report’s co-author and executive director of the group.

The Senate earlier this year passed a bill raising America’s car and light truck requirements to 35 mpg by 2020.

If the House of Representatives adopted the Senate’s language, the United States would surpass Canada, Australia, South Korea and even California’s strong passenger vehicle fuel standards, according to the report.

Kodjak said current technology could increase the fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles without compromising their size or safety.

While there is support among some lawmakers to raise mileage requirements as a way to fight global warming, many more lawmakers back higher fuel-economy standards to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil suppliers like OPEC.

Energy experts say the biggest impact in cutting U.S. oil imports would be to increase vehicle mileage requirements.

The United States consumes about 21 million barrels of oil a day, with three out of every five of those barrels imported. Gasoline demand alone accounts for about 45 percent of daily U.S. oil consumption.