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White House outlines new fuel-efficiency standard

July 26, 2011|By Christi Parsons
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Washington —

The White House is preparing to slightly soften its proposal on new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, after weeks of talks with automakers lobbying for lower standards out of concern for the impact on their business.

The Obama administration's initial suggestion was that automakers steadily increase fuel economy between 2017 and 2025 to a fleetwide average of 56.2 miles per gallon, although environmental activists have complained that a series of exemptions and credits would make the actual mileage substantially lower than that.

Car manufacturers have been involved in talks with the White House for weeks now, at one point pushing for mile-per-gallon standards in the neighborhood of 40 miles per gallon. Attempting to bring the car companies on board with the proposal, the White House has decided to lower the ultimate goal to 54.5 mpg, according to a source familiar with the talks.

The new proposal gives makers of light trucks more time to improve fuel efficiency. Automakers have argued that the technology for trucks isn't as far along as that for cars.

Under the new proposal, cars would have to improve their fuel economy by 5 percent each year from 2017 to 2025. For the first five years of that period, trucks would have to improve at 3.5 percent per year, and then would rise to the 5 percent requirement.

The newly proposed standard is still higher than many automakers want, but one administration official said Tuesday that there are signs that some companies may agree to the revised standard.
"We're encouraged by the strong positive feedback we're receiving from several companies," said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks. The official did not identify companies who may have signed on to or signaled support for the new figures.
The White House is hoping to wrap up talks "in the near future," said the official, and announce a standard widely agreed upon by car makers, the United Auto Workers union, environmentalists and officials from the state of California.
In May 2009, the state of California, which has authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own automotive standards, and the White House reached a deal with automakers to improve fuel-efficiency standards to 34.1 mpg between 2012 and 2016.

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