Lawmakers in Washington kill a proposal hotly contested by the auto industry that would have raised the corporate average fuel economy requirement to 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) for both cars and light trucks by 2019.
Democrats and environmental groups favored the proposal from Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Todd Russell Platts (R-PA), but it failed to gain the bipartisan support needed to find its way into a larger energy bill slated for consideration by the House on Friday.
Markey says in a statement he instead will support legislation approved by the Senate earlier this summer that would raise the CAFE requirement to 35 mpg from the current 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) standard by the ‘20 model year.
Most auto makers, as well as dealers and the United Auto Workers union, consider the defeat of Markey’s legislation a victory. The groups lobbied vigorously against the proposal in recent weeks, emphasizing to lawmakers their support of a rival of a less stringent amendment from Rep. Baron P. Hill (D-IN) and Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE).
Detractors called the Markey-Platts proposal economically and technologically unfeasible and warned it put industry jobs at risk, while the Hill-Terry effort would preserve jobs and the broad number of vehicle choices available to consumers today.
A key element of the Hill-Terry legislation keeps separate standards for regular cars and light trucks, which include SUVs, while Markey-Platts would have grouped all vehicles into one category.
The Senate legislation now backed by Markey directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. to set standards for each class of vehicles to reach the overall 35-mpg average. The bill also allows NHTSA to declare the goal too costly, if “clear and convincing” evidence exists.
However, that compromise still falls short of the Hill-Terry proposal that calls for a combined light-vehicle CAFE standard of 32-35 mpg (7.3-6.7 L/100 km) by 2022 but maintains separate car and truck classifications.
“There is strong, bipartisan, business, industry, labor and consumer support for Hill-Terry and we will continue to work toward its passage,” says Dave McCurdy, president of CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in a statement. The trade group includes Detroit’s Big Three and other Asian and European auto makers.
It remains unclear, however, whether Rep. Hill still will offer his CAFE proposal as an amendment to the energy bill on Friday. But Wednesday’s action more likely pushes House debate over a new CAFE requirement to September, when lawmakers will address the issue in global-warming legislation from Rep. John Dingell (D-MI).
Dingell calls the Markey rejection a decision that will help move forward the passage of a consensus energy bill and reiterates his support for the Hill-Terry legislation, calling it a proposal that would “aggressively reduce the use of fuel and emissions of carbon dioxide without hurting American jobs.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who supported Markey-Platts, says in a statement that like Rep. Markey she also will support the CAFE standard found in the Senate energy bill and hints that a debate looms next month.
“We will have an opportunity to address this issue shortly,” she says.