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RMA opposes energy bill amendment

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) intends to offer an amendment to the energy bill that would require the U.S. Department of Transportion to establish a "tire efficiency program" and ensure that the rolling resistance of replacement tires is equal to or better than original equipment tires.

There is no timetable for when the amendment will be offered, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which opposes it.

"Currently, federal and state government activity is studying rolling resistance issues to determine whether efficiency standards regulating rolling resistance performance are technically feasible and cost effective without compromising tire safety or tire wear performance of replacement tires," says Dan Zielinski, the RMA's vice president of communications. "To take action before those studies are completed would be premature."

California enacted legislation in 2003 similar to the Schumer amendment. The state is collecting data to determine if anticipated fuel savings would outstrip other consumer costs associated with lower rolling resistance tires. California also is studying the the relationships among rolling resistance, fuel economy, traction and tread wear.

California will only issue regulations for a "tire efficiency program"

if such an effort:

* is technically feasible and cost-effective for consumers,

* does not adversely affect tire safety,

* does not decrease tire tread life, and

* does not have an negative affect on the state's scrap tire management.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) also is studying tire rolling resistance issues. "This process will evaluate the state of the art with respect to tire rolling resistance and vehicle fuel economy and provide policymakers with additional critical information upon which to make informed policy choices," says Zielinski.

In a recent report on vehicle fuel economy, the National Academy of Sciences said, "Continued advances in tire and wheel technologies are directed toward reducing rolling resistance without compromising handling, comfort, and braking. Improvements of about 1 to 1.5% are considered possible. The impacts on performance, comfort, durability, and safety, however, must be evaluated."

The NAS report is due in January 2006.

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