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Old 10-21-2009, 02:37 PM   #1
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Default etroit automakers: We can meet fuel standards

Dearborn -- Detroit's Big Three automakers today reiterated their support for a federal regulation setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and urged the government to pursue a long-term strategy.

The automakers are speaking at a public hearing held by officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, who are getting feedback on proposed fuel economy benchmarks and national greenhouse gas emissions limits for passenger vehicles.

The hearing gives automakers, environmental groups and the public their first chance to respond to the regulation and suggest changes that could be adopted before the rules take effect. More detailed comments are expected to be filed with the government in coming weeks.

Automakers are to meet a fleet-wide average of 35.5 mpg by 2016 -- four years ahead of what Congress required in 2007 when it mandated 35 mpg by 2020. The higher requirements will add $13 billion to $20 billion annually in total new car costs, according to Obama administration estimates.

"The proposal will not be easy nor will it be inexpensive," said Michael Robinson, General Motors Co.'s vice president for environment, energy and safety policy. "But we are up to the challenge."

The hearing at the Detroit Metro Airport Marriott is the first of several scheduled this month nationwide. It drew officials from Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota Motor Corp. and environmentalists from groups such as the Sierra Club.

The proposed regulations should give automakers some flexibility. For example, they could be allowed to use air conditioning improvements, which also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to meet part of the requirements. That could mean the fleet average would be less than 35.5 mpg by 2016.

The government needs to ensure regulations are in place beyond 2016, said Susan Cischke, Ford group vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering.
The hearings follow an agreement that President Barack Obama reached in May with major automakers and the state of California to harmonize state emissions limits with federal fuel economy requirements and set one national standard. The goal was to quickly and substantially boost fuel efficiency rules beyond what Congress required as part of a broad energy bill in 2007.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the EPA must allow for 90 days of public comment and finalize new rules by March 31, to allow time for automakers to meet the regulations, which would take effect in stages beginning with the 2012 model year.
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