- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Bush administration today proposed tough fuel efficiency standards for automakers, who responded by cautioning that the price to consumers for new vehicles is likely to increase.

The proposed regulations would raise the fuel efficiency of automobiles 25 percent between 2011 and 2015.

“This proposal is historically ambitious, yet achievable,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. “It will help us all breathe a little easier by reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fuel consumption and making driving a little more affordable.”

However, the proposal did not describe the costs or technology needed to achieve the goals.

“Raising fuel economy is generally associated with increases in vehicle costs,” said Jerry Roussel, Ford Motor Company’s manager of energy, environment and safety.

Ford Motor Co. is evaluating the Transportation Department proposal to determine the costs, he said.

Adding devices to engines and building vehicles with more lightweight steel are some of the most likely changes to auto manufacturing, said Edward Cohen, vice president of governmental relations for Honda North America Inc.

“There is a tremendous amount of [research and development] investment that is going to have to be done and factored into the price of the vehicle,” Mr. Cohen said. “Clearly these regulations will impact cost. How much, I can’t tell you.”

The research is likely to try to build on alternative energy sources such as ethanol, rechargeable batteries and fuel cells, he said.

“The truth is we don’t know which of these technologies is going to be the one,” Mr. Cohen said.

The Bush administration proposal exceeds the fuel efficiency standards Congress imposed on the auto industry last year in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It would increase efficiency an average of 3.3 percent per year through 2020, compared with a 4.5 percent increase under the regulation announced today.

The Transportation Department is soliciting comments from automakers and consumers on the proposed rules but plans to finalize them by spring 2009.

They would reduce the nation’s fuel consumption by 55 billion gallons while lessening carbon dioxide emissions about 521 million metric tons, Mrs. Peters said. Motorists would spend $100 billion less on fuel over the lifetime of vehicles purchased between 2011 and 2015, she said.

Automakers would earn credits for exceeding Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards under the proposal. The credits are designed as incentives for manufacturers to exceed the standards.

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