The ink is barely dry on the new CAFE standard, yet the Department of Transportation is expected to announce today that it is accelerating the timetable for the new mileage standard. No doubt, the auto industry will kick up a fair amount of fuss.

The proposed regulation would require the industry to meet a target of 31.5 mpg by 2015. In effect, it would force automakers to speed up their development of lighter, more fuel efficient cars and trucks. The current law requires automakers to meet an average 35 mpg between 2011 and 2020. The new regulation means that car makers would have to meet more than half of that savings in the first half of the phase-in period.

Environmental groups have long maintained that improvements made in the early stages will add up significantly over time. The Union of Concerned Scientists has been particularly vocal about the benefits of moving quickly on the new standard. The question unanswered is whether the auto industry will challenge the new regulation in court.

Image: DOT