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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being criticized for holding back a report that indicates a significant drop in the fuel efficency of US automakers' vehicles, just as Congress prepares a final vote on an energy bill that's taken six years to get to the floor. The agency had scheduled the report for publication yesterday, but delayed its release — not before sending one off to the New York Times. (Note to the EPA's communications department: Nice one!)

According to the Times, the report indicates companies are making liberal (heh heh) use of loopholes in regulations to build vehicles that are far less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980s. The report also acknowledges that "fuel economy is directly related to energy security," an important consideration when consumers' cars and trucks account for 40% of oil consumption in the US.

U.S. agency delays report on saving fuel [The International Herald Tribune]