House Drops Tougher Auto Fuel Economy Bills

House Democrats decide against confrontation over automobile fuel economy when they take up energy legislation later this week.

WASHINGTON (AP) - After weeks of uncertainty, House Democrats have decided against a confrontation over automobile fuel economy when they take up energy legislation later this week.
Two proposals to boost the required mileage for new automobiles were submitted Wednesday for consideration as amendments to the energy legislation, but they were withdrawn by their Democratic sponsors.
Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sponsor of a proposal to boost vehicle mileage to 35 miles per gallon by 2019, said he decided not to pursue the matter after consulting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi in a statement said she supported requiring automakers to make more fuel efficient vehicles but that the issue was deferred ''in the interest of promoting passage of a consensus energy bill.''
The House was scheduled to take up the legislation on Friday in one of its last actions before lawmakers depart for their month long summer recess.
Pelosi said she supports the Senate-passed mileage measure and that the issue would be addressed when the House and Senate bills are merged, probably in September.
''The American people in every region of the country overwhelmingly support stronger fuel efficiency standards'' for motor vehicles, Pelosi said.
Markey said he also was confident that ''our strength in both the House and Senate'' in support of raising the auto fuel economy requirements for the first time since 1975 is sufficient to assure the measure will be included in the final bill sent to the president.
Markey had been working feverishly to line up votes for his proposal, backed by environmentalists. It would boost auto fuel economy requirements by about 40 percent over the current 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for SUVs and small trucks by 2019.
Also abandoned was a proposal backed by some of the auto manufacturers that was supported by both Democrats and many Republicans. It would have required cars and trucks to meet efficiency rules of 32 to 35 mpg by 2022.
Its chief sponsor, Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., had offered the amendment as a ''pre-emptive measure'' to counter the Markey proposal, his spokeswoman, Katie Moreau, said.
Markey said he believed he had a majority of House members with him on his legislation. The bill sponsored by Hill had at least 143 co-sponsors and on Wednesday the centrist-to-conservative ''Blue Dog Democrats'' said at least two-thirds of its 47-member group preferred Hill's bill over Markey's.
Automakers had lobbied heavily against the Markey legislation, as they had unsuccessfully in the Senate last month.
Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the trade group would continue to push for ''realistic fuel economy standards'' that would preserve jobs and vehicle choice.
Congress has not changed the federal auto fuel economy standard since it was imposed in 1975. It has been at 27.5 mpg fleet average for cars since 1989. The truck requirements, which include SUVs and passenger vans, recently were raised to 22.2 mpg.
The Markey bill, as well as the Senate-passed measure, would combine cars with small trucks, SUVs and vans under one requirement.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
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