In a reversal on Bush's prior commitment to make a decision on the issue of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today revealed it will not make a decision before President-Elect Barack Obama takes office later this month.

Proposed CAFE regulations on new cars would force fuel economy upward toward a goal of 35mpg fleet-wide by 2020. The debate exists on how to graduate the progression toward that goal. The NHTSA has proposed one avenue to raised standards, seeking a total of 25% improvement by 2015, but that would cost the industry about $47 billion over the five-year period, reports Automotive News.

Even though new rules would mean a necessary increase in spending for already cash-strapped car manufacturers, the delay from Bush's promised end-of-2008 decision is costing even more money, since they are being forced to delay some aspects of product planning and development to accommodate potential variability in the final CAFE regulations.

It will likely take some time for the Obama administration to get up to speed on the matter, though many in the industry are looking forward to the changeover. We look forward to working with the Obama administration to provide them with any information they need to complete this rule-making. Manufacturers share the goal of enhancing energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokesman Charles Territo.

Obama's staff will have to get moving quickly, however, as federal laws will allow a window of just over two months until April 1 to get the changes made in time for the 2011 model year. Any change to the CAFE regulations must allow for an eighteen-month advance notice, and under CAFE methods, the 2011 model year starts on October 1, 2010.