An interesting battle is shaping up in the week ahead as a Senate bill passed last Thursday night moves over to the House for debate. If passed into law the measure, which requires automakers meet average fleet mileage figures of 35 mpg by 2020 -- a 10 mpg improvement over today's standards, would be the first change in fuel mileage standards in over 20 years.
The automakers are lining up against this measure:
"Major changes are still needed to make this bill achievable," Ford Motor Co. government affairs Vice President Bruce Andrews said. [...]
Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. called the efficiency provision in Senate energy legislation approved last Thursday a "very aggressive target" and "extreme."
And the unions are lining up against it as well:
Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers, which represents hourly employees at Ford, General Motors Corp., and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, said the Senate bill threatened jobs.
This coming Wednesday the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by automaker ally Rep. John Dingell (D) of Michigan, will prepare its energy bill for consideration by the full House. Currently Dingell's effort does not include an increase in gas mileage requirements.
The current base principles and tactics of the Democrats and Republicans with regards to our energy policy is coming down to two basic policy differences with respect to President Bush's call to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. The Republicans want to produce more oil by opening up new areas for drilling, as well as putting our nuclear energy program back on track. The Democrats want to develop alternate sources of energy and have the oil companies pay for that development.
But both sides of the aisle need to realize that increasing the efficiency of our nation's energy use is a categorical imperative we cannot ignore. The very fact that it's been 20 years since the last increase in fleet mileage averages is evidence enough that an increase in mileage requirements, even one as large as this, is way overdue.
Our nation is paying a very steep price, figuratively and literally, for our addiction to foreign oil. Decreasing our gasoline usage by raising the bar on automaker's mileage requirements is a must-do initiative that needs to survive the efforts of special interest groups like the automakers and the automotive workers unions.
This bill's quick passage in the Senate shows they are recognizing this fact. Let's hope the House moves forward on this front as well.
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