- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

President Obama is asking consumers to put their money - up to $1,300 per new vehicle by 2016 - behind his plan for higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and tougher rules on their greenhouse gas emissions.

In return, Mr. Obama said Tuesday in unveiling the plan, drivers would make up the higher cost of more-fuel-efficient, cleaner vehicles by buying less gas at the pump. It would take just three years to pay off the investment and would, over the life of a vehicle, save about $2,800 through better gas mileage, the president said.

While requiring that vehicle carbon-dioxide emissions be reduced by about one-third by the target date, the plan also calls for the auto industry to build vehicles that average 35.5 miles per gallon. Government regulations have never before linked emission and fuel standards.

“The fact is, everyone wins,” Mr. Obama said during a Rose Garden ceremony attended by representatives of the auto industry and environmental groups as well as state and federal lawmakers.

The plan, to be proposed in the Federal Register of pending rules and regulations, must clear procedural hurdles at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department.

Under the changes, the overall fleet average would have to be 35.5 mpg by 2016, with passenger cars reaching 39 mpg and light trucks getting 30 mpg under a system that develops standards for each vehicle class size. Manufacturers would also be required to hit individual mileage targets.

The plan would effectively end a feud between automakers and statehouses over emission standards. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia had urged the federal government to allow them to enact more stringent standards than the federal government’s requirements.

The ceremony brought together longtime adversaries. California state Sen. Fran Pavley, a Democrat who wrote the 2002 law that required auto companies to reduce tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases, sat next to Rep. Sander M. Levin, Michigan Democrat, a longtime champion of the auto industry.

Nearby, Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat who has defended General Motors and Chrysler as they struggle with government aid, sat next to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who was once depicted in a Detroit billboard that read, “Arnold to Michigan: Drop Dead!”

Auto executives joined the event and later said they were pleased with the first steps.

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