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Obama Administration Continuing Fuel-Economy Talks

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On: Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 2:31PM | By: Tim Healey

Obama Administration Continuing Fuel-Economy Talks

Despite moves by the House to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating tailpipe emissions, the Obama administration is continuing talks regarding fuel-economy and pollution standards for the years 2017-2025.

The talks involve automakers, the state of California, and environmental groups.

David Strickland, an administrator for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), told Automotive News that the EPA, NHTSA, and California need to work together on new standards. Strickland also told AN that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and President Obama are united in their views. The goal is to have new rules by September.

Resistance may come from House Republicans. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is Republican-led, has passed a bill that would take away the EPA's authority to set greenhouse-gas standards along with California's right to have its own pollution rules. NHTSA would be the only federal agency with the power to set fuel-economy regulations.

The full House is likely to pass the bill when it votes on it. However, key Democrats in the Senate predict that the bill won't succeed in that chamber.

The Obama administration is eyeing goals of 47 mpg to 62 mpg for 2025. Current targets are 35.5 mpg for 2016.

For their part, the automakers have stayed neutral on the House bill, saying only that they'd prefer a national standard to varying state and federal regulations.

From the automakers' perspective, that makes sense, as it will cost less money and time to adhere to one national standard. But states might object, so that they can propose rules that make the most sense for their local problems—such as Southern California's smog.

Compromise might be hard to come by given the current political situation. Democrats and Republicans aren't agreeing on much these days, especially following the mid-term elections in 2010, and traditionally, Democrats have pushed for higher targets while Republicans have pushed for rules that were less restrictive for businesses. In fact, if there is room for compromise, it might be regarding the idea of a national standard. That would cost automakers less, but if the higher numbers are approved and the bill fails, left-leaning folks will also be appeased.


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