Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Clinton proposes that autos get 55 mpg by 2030

November 6, 2007 - 12:01 am ETWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Monday proposed an auto fuel efficiency target of 55 miles per gallon by 2030, substantially more ambitious than what Congress is wrestling with now.

The goal is a cornerstone of Clinton's sweeping energy and climate change plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a projected 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 and reduce oil imports by two-thirds -- more than 10 million barrels per day -- from 2030 projected levels.

"This is the biggest challenge we've faced in a generation, a challenge to our economy, our security, our health, and our planet," Clinton, a former first lady who leads national polls for the 2008 Democratic nomination, said in a statement.

Gasoline demand accounts for nearly half of the average daily U.S. consumption of 20.9 million barrels of oil.

The 55 mpg mileage plan for cars and trucks would be offset for manufacturers by a $20 billion bond program to help them finance factory overhauls to make cars and trucks that run on fuels other than gasoline.

To spur increased production of ethanol and other renewable fuels to reduce oil demand, Clinton would extend the national renewable fuel goal from the current target of 7.5 billion gallons per year by 2012 to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022 and to 60 billion gallons by 2030.

The plan would also accelerate battery research and production of plug-in hybrids -- a gasoline-electric vehicle that can be recharged by plugging into a typical electrical outlet. Automakers, including General Motors, are testing this concept.

Most major automakers are fighting a proposal approved by the Senate that would require vehicles achieve 35 mpg by 2020, a 40 percent increase over the current standard. Under Clinton's plan, the target would be 40 mpg in 2020.

Automakers call the standard unachievable or nearly unachievable, especially Detroit-based GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. All three want Congress to soften the Senate bill or support a less stringent plan in the House of Representatives.

Clinton's rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, former Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, also support tough fuel economy standards.

Leading Republican candidates have not committed to specific increases in fuel economy.

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