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Senate Fuel Bill Would kill Michigan

Automakers and Michigan lawmakers were regrouping Friday in the wake of the approval of a Senate bill that increases corporate average fuel economy mandates by 40 percent by 2025.

The passage of the Senate bill would gravely injure Detroit automakers. This is why the automakers had lobbied hard against the new fuel mandates. They had supported a compromise proposed by Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Christopher Bond, R-Mo., among others, that would have raised CAFE rules, but less onerously than the Senate bill.

Nearly the whole Michigan congressional delegation earlier met to tackle how to continue with the struggle. "The bill would mean the death of Michigan," said U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, D-Brighton. "We owe it to a lot of families who rely on the auto industry to get this right." Added Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee: "You think things are bad now in Michigan? You haven't seen anything yet if that bill became law." Rogers and Stupak said that automakers need to emphasize their advanced technology efforts and push for more assistance to make vehicles like the Chevy Volt a reality.

But Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, fuming like Eagle spark plugs, said that senators did not find automakers credible for they have "misrepresented the facts" at time. "We don't believe you anymore,'" Reid said. "The answer is we've had enough. It's time the American automobile manufacturers join with the rest of the world in recognizing that people want to buy more fuel efficient cars."

Reid said that he had spoken to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told him fuel economy legislation would be passed "in the near future." Automakers now are anxious that the fuel bill may be on a much faster track than previously thought. But Pelosi meant September by the words "near future," said spokesman Brendan Daley.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, was not expected to take up the fuel economy provisions until September. Dingell said that he was against accelerating consideration. I am not sympathetic to that, he added. Dingell met with Pelosi on the house floor Friday and had a "good conversation," said Daly. "Pelosi and Dingell are to meet again on Monday."

Senate Democrats held a press conference yesterday to "take a bow" in the wake of the conquest. The mandate, which requires automakers to raise fuel economy to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks combined, was added to a broad energy bill the Senate approved. Senators have turned down a less stringent fuel proposal by Levin and others that would have required 36 miles per gallon for passenger cars by 2022 and 30 miles per gallon for light trucks by 2025.

Dave McCurdy, the president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group that represents the Detroit Three, Toyota and BMW among nine automakers, offered an assuaging statement. "Automakers support improving national fuel economy standards," McCurdy said. "This is a long process, and we are continuing to work constructively to develop reasonable fuel economy standards that are affordable and preserve the cars and light trucks that farmers, tradesmen, business owners, outdoor enthusiasts and families need every day."

General Motors Corp. spokesman Greg Martin expressed the automaker's disappointment. "In their rush to do something, Congress should take the same oath as doctors: 'First, do no harm,'" Martin said. "We'll continue to press our case hard that we can work with them to get improved fuel economy levels without the unintended costs to the industry and consumers." Ford and Chrysler as well as other Japanese automakers expressed the same views.

About The Author Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.
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