WASHINGTON – Auto makers, industry stakeholders and even a former Transportation Secretary strongly are urging federal officials to retain a single vehicle-emissions and fuel-economy standard, rather than allow states permission to adopt their own regulations.
“Anything else sets auto makers up for failure,” Norman Y. Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, tells attendees at a public-policy day address at the Washington Auto Show here Monday.
California’s proposed carbon-dioxide emissions standard requires vehicles to achieve a corporate average fuel economy of about 36 mpg (6.1 L/100 km) by 2016 and 43 mpg (5.4 L/100 km) by 2020. The new federal CAFE standard signed into law last year sets a national fuel-economy target of 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) by 2020, based on a fleet average for all light vehicles.
The new fleet emissions and fuel standards will cost U.S. car companies $115 billion by 2020, regardless of whether the economy improves, Mineta says. “That’s the last thing the industry needs right now.”
However, he also points out, “federal mileage standards provide certainty and stability, giving auto makers a roadmap to produce fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow.”
President Barack Obama issued an executive order in late January directing newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to revisit a request by California to regulate tailpipe emissions.
Obama also ordered the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to tighten fuel-economy requirements by 2011, but promised neither directive would jeopardize the struggling Detroit auto makers.
In his address, Mineta, who has served in high posts for both Republican and Democratic administrations, urges Obama to convene a fuel-economy summit, where auto makers, organized labor, dealers, state and federal government officials, environmental groups and other interested parties could work together to develop a solution to the conflicting fuel-economy standards.
Mineta tells Ward’s the proposed car czar, who Obama plans to appoint to monitor Detroit auto makers benefiting from federal taxpayer loans, is the logical choice to preside over such a summit, although he doesn’t know who the candidates for the position might be.
“This is the most tight-lipped administration ever,” Mineta says.
Industry association spokesmen, including Phil Brady, president of the National Automobile Dealers Assn.; Dave McCurdy, president of the Auto Alliance; and Mike Stanton, president of Association of International Automobile Manufacturers; also are calling on the Obama Admin. to create preemptive national fuel-economy and emissions standards.
Similar appeals are being voiced by executives of European and Japanese auto makers that build and sell vehicles in the U.S., who stress the confusion and expense caused by multiple regulations governing the current standards.
Margo T. Oge, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, tells another group at the auto show that Jackson, the EPA’s newly appointed administrator, will conduct a transparent process, including a 45-60-day comment period before ruling on the California waiver.
Oge declines to say when a final ruling might be handed down.