Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Senators push fuel standards

Thursday, July 20, 2006
Senators push fuel standards
Proposed bill would increase fuel economy by 4 percent each year; GM calls it unrealistic.
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Wednesday unveiled a bill that would increase fuel economy standards for the nation's passenger cars and light trucks by 4 percent each year -- about one mile per gallon annually -- starting after model year 2009.

Looking to end the months-long impasse over increasing fuel economy standards and offer a more flexible approach, the eight senators, led by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., introduced the Fuel Economy Reform Act of 2006.

"Unlike other bills that set numerical mandates, this one would allow the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to "revise the annual increase if (the NHTSA) concludes that the target cannot be reached with current technology or without compromising safety," it states.

"It is clear that the Achilles' heel of the most powerful country on earth is the oil we import and cannot live without," Obama said.

Cars and light trucks account for 40 percent of U.S. oil consumption.

Bush sought authority in April to raise the average fuel economy of the vehicles, but Congress has yet to allow it. Currently, fuel efficiency standards have not been raised for passenger cars since 1985.

Privately, international and domestic automakers think fuel economy legislation has little chance of passing this year, since Congress has other political battles to fight.

General Motors Corp. spokesman Greg Martin said the new bill isn't realistic, since automakers have a multi-year planning cycle.

"We should have some good sound experts and scientists say what's technically feasible," Martin said. "Fuel economy ultimately depends on what people buy. We're working hard on that front, from flexible-fuel vehicles to hybrids to ultimately fuel cells."

The Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, which represents the Big 3 and Toyota among others, said it supports "the general goal of trying to enhance energy security and also basing fuel economy on what's feasible," said Gloria Bergquist, vice president at the alliance.

Fuel economy has to take into account safety, cost and jobs as well, she said.

You can reach David Shepardson at (202) 662 - 8735 or

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.

Proposed changes

Congress is considering a bill to impose increases to mileage standards to passenger vehicles. The bill would:

Require a 4 percent annual increase by the 2009 model year for cars and 2013 for light trucks unless federal regulators said it wasn't feasible

Offer tax incentives for companies to retool parts and assembly plants to make more fuel efficient vehicles.

Establish different standards for different types of cars.


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