Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CAFE becomes one-front war -- for now

Harry Stoffer
Automotive News
June 19, 2007 - 10:27 am

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives will wait until fall to tackle difficult fuel economy issues, key lawmakers said Monday.

Environmental groups hailed the delay as a victory for states, led by California, that want to enforce their own rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

But the postponement also enables the auto industry to concentrate its lobbying resources on the Senate, where a crucial fuel economy vote is scheduled for this week.

The industry -- encompassing automakers, dealers, suppliers and allies -- are in the unusual position of lobbying for a measure that would raise fuel economy standards more than 30 percent by 2025.

That alternative is more palatable to the industry than legislation being debated on the Senate floor. That bill would raise standards more than 60 percent over the same period.

In the House, the postponement of fuel economy legislation avoids a confrontation between Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and industry ally John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Draft legislation prepared by Dingell's committee would have kept states from enforcing their own rules on greenhouse gas emissions -- rules that automakers call fuel economy standards in disguise.

In a memo, Dingell and Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., chairman of the energy and air quality subcommittee, said they intend to consider immediately energy legislation on which consensus among lawmakers exists. That excludes fuel economy and related provisions.

"These (excluded) issues are important, and we are committed to addressing them and others when we take up comprehensive climate change legislation in the fall," said the memo. It was addressed to committee members but circulated widely late Monday, June 18.

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