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Senators Want Changes To Fuel Economy Plan

Lawmakers from auto manufacturing states agree fuel efficiency standards should be increased, but the pending legislation would have 'detrimental effect on the auto industry.'

WASHINGTON (AP) β€” A group of lawmakers representing auto manufacturing states want changes to a Senate plan to boost fuel economy standards for new vehicles.
In a letter to Senate leaders Thursday, Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and five others said they agree that fuel efficiency standards should be increased. But the pending legislation, they said, ''would have a needlessly detrimental effect on the auto industry and its workers.''
In June, the Senate approved a 40 percent increase in fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for passenger cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans. In 2008, cars must average 27.5 mpg and trucks need to reach 22.5 mpg.
House and Senate leaders are considering an energy bill that contains the fuel economy requirements.
The Senate measure would eliminate the so-called ''two-fleet rule,'' which keeps different mileage standards for cars and trucks, and it would do away with different calculations for vehicles made overseas and in North America. The United Auto Workers union has said eliminating the separation would lead to a loss of 17,000 jobs involved in small car production in the U.S.
In addition to Levin and Stabenow, the letter was signed by Democrats Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Republicans Kit Bond of Missouri and George Voinovich of Ohio.
The lawmakers support a series of changes to the Senate plan, including a combined standard of 32 to 35 mpg by 2022, separate standards for cars and trucks, provisions to maintain small car production in the U.S., and the extension of credits for the building of flexible fuel vehicles through 2020. The credits are scheduled to expire in 2010.
''We believe we have a real opportunity to make significant strides in improving energy conservation and fuel economy so as to reduce our dependence on foreign oil ... in a sensible way that would support American manufacturing and American workers,'' they wrote.
Eli Hopson, the Washington representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists' clean vehicles program, said the changes would weaken the measure at a time when oil prices are soaring.
''What's good for Americans is going to be good for the Big Three β€” good for Detroit in the long run,'' Hopson said.
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