Oklahomans, as well as many Americans, are concerned about the rising cost of fuel and the amount of oil imported from less-than-stable countries. We were concerned long before President Bush reminded us of our oil addiction in January.

That concern?translated to government policy this past week. U.S. Transportation officials set tighter fuel economy rules designed to reduce oil consumption.

The rules, when fully implemented in 2011, will save 10.7 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicles sold during the period. It will also take a more aggressive stance than the Bush administration proposed last summer.

Targeted are SUVs and pickup trucks. SUVs weighing 8,500 to 10,000 pounds would be impacted beginning in 2011. By then, an automaker's fleetwide average must reach 24 miles per gallon.

Trucks have specific fuel economy standards based on the vehicle's wheelbase and track width. Passenger cars face other rules. They must meet a 27.5 miles per gallon average by 2011.

Critics say the plan is too little, way too late. One estimate was the rules would save about two weeks of gasoline a year over the next two decades. Another told the Associated Press it was like "slowing down the Titanic as it steams toward the iceberg."

Automakers will have a significant engineering challenge ahead but it's a?level playing field with the rules defined.

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