Michigan To Bush: Energy Plan Doesn't Help

Lawmakers worry about impact on the Big Three.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Michigan's congressional delegation voiced concern last week about how President Bush's energy initiative could affect the state's auto industry.

Bush, in his State of the Union address, called for a reduction in gasoline consumption in the U.S. by 20 percent during the next 10 years through tougher fuel economy standards and more production of ethanol and alternative fuels.

Several Michigan lawmakers said raising gas mileage standards would hurt Michigan automakers such as General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group.

''We can reduce our dependence on foreign oil without destroying one of the most significant providers of jobs and wealth the country has ever known,'' Rep. Joe Knollenberg, a Republican from Oakland County's Bloomfield Township, wrote in a Detroit News editorial. ''Now is not the time to pull the rug out from underneath The Big Three's and Michigan's collective feet.''

The White House said they favored increasing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards by 4 percent annually for passenger cars and trucks while revamping the system for passenger cars, which have remained relatively constant during the past two decades.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Bush's plan was ''not up to the task. We need nothing less than a comprehensive initiative to create leap-ahead energy technologies, to produce a large number of vehicles that can run on alternative fuels, and to level the playing field for our domestic manufacturers.''

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, said the Congress should expand research and development tax credits for the domestic automakers and expand credits for consumers who buy alternative fuel vehicles.

But he noted that ''any changes to CAFE standards must not put our domestic automakers at a further disadvantage or endanger jobs in Michigan.''

Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked the Bush administration to provide justification for his plan and offer legislation to his committee by Feb. 1.

In limited floor action, Levin and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., supported a measure banning federal contractors from government work for up to a decade if they're caught hiring illegal immigrants.

In a unanimous vote, the sanctions were added to a minimum wage bill being considered by the Senate. It would impose a contract ban on companies, even if they inadvertently hire illegal workers, from seven to 10 years.

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