Lawmakers look to reach car mileage deal

Photo by Luis Tamayo, Flickr

Car manufacturers and the White House are looking to come to a conclusion on the new, higher fuel economy standards.

Read more from the New York Times below:

The Obama administration and automakers are nearing an agreement to increase fuel economy standards for vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a lower target than the White House had sought.

The administration had earlier proposed a goal of 56.2 miles per gallon, while Detroit automakers and Michigan lawmakers have been pushing for a lower standard.

But people close to the talks said Tuesday that some automakers were now willing to support a 54.5 m.p.g. rule, particularly because the ramp-up period is less aggressive for light trucks than for passenger cars. The new proposal would almost double the current fuel-efficiency standards of about 27.8 m.p.g.

The talks among the administration, automakers, environmental groups and California officials have been continuing for weeks, as the various sides grappled with how to reduce global warming emissions, cut fuel consumption and reduce the costs that consumers pay at the pump.

The new administration proposal calls for increasing fuel efficiency for light trucks by 3.5 percent annually from 2017 to 2021. It would then be increased by 5 percent a year from 2022 to 2025.

Passenger cars would need to become 5 percent more efficient every year over the entire eight-year span of the standard.

In 2009, automakers agreed to an administration plan to increase fuel economy to about 35 m.p.g. by 2016.

The proposed standard has the potential to curtail vehicle emissions drastically and reduce the nation’s dependence on oil. However, industry groups have argued that the changes could add thousands of dollars to the price of new vehicles in the showroom.

There was no immediate comment from the White House on Tuesday, but people familiar with the discussions said the talks appeared to be nearing a conclusion.

“We are encouraged by the strong, positive feedback we are receiving from many companies and look forward to wrapping up the discussions in the near future,” said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were continuing.

One item still under intense discussion is the so-called midterm review of the standard. Environmentalists were concerned that a review stipulation could allow automakers to circumvent increases in fuel efficiency in the latter stages of the agreement.

“Until the White House provides us the full details, we are not in a position to assess whether this a strong proposal or whether there are any significant flaws,” said Roland Hwang, the transportation program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco.

A spokesman for General Motors, Greg Martin, said the nation’s largest auto company was optimistic that an agreement could be reached that balanced the economic concerns of the industry with the goal of reducing fuel consumption.

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