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US House Energy Panel To Hold Hearing On Fuel Efficiency January 24, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on fuel efficiency standards within a week, Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., said Wednesday.

The debate over vehicle fuel efficiency standards is gaining momentum, with some lawmakers calling for gradual increases while others want specific, mandated targets.

Dingell, a longtime backer of the auto industry, made his comments at an appearance at the Washington Auto Show with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., next to several flexible fuel vehicles.

President George W. Bush Tuesday in his State of the Union speech said he would ask Congress for the power to reform fuel efficiency standards as part of his plan to reduce gasoline use by 20% over 10 years. Although the president’s proposal assumed efficiency would increase 4% every year, some critics said it wasn’t a strong enough mandate, particularly because it asked Congress not to legislate numeric fuel economy standards.

Instead, he wants to give the Transportation Secretary the authority to reform Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, or CAFE, into an attribute-based system. That system, which auto manufacturers encourage, would be one in which standards would be tied to some vehicle attribute instead of having a set standard for all vehicles.

Asked if she supported the president’s plans, Pelosi said Democrats would be examining all the proposals on the table.

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, National Commission on Energy Policy Executive Director Jason Grumet touted the president’s plan to increase fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks by 4% a year as “a very significant step” on fuel economy.

Raising fuel economy standards is “the single most important thing we can do to increase our energy security,” he said. “I would hope this Congress, in a very bipartisan way, would send him a bill in the next few weeks.”

Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said Tuesday in a letter to the president he would next week reintroduce the Fuel Economy Reform Act, a bipartisan bill put forward last year and co-led by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., that seeks a more stringent mandate to raise fuel economy standards by 4% every year.

Other lawmakers are calling for tougher mandates.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has called for raising CAFE standards from 27.5 miles a gallon to 40 miles a gallon by 2017. A group of nine mostly Democratic senators Monday called for standards of 35 miles a gallon by 2019.

But with Dingell as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, many political pundits think a compromise will have to be reached within the Democrat ranks.

By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires


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