More Emissions Restrictions from the White House

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Posted: May 19, 2009 2:36 PM
Guest blog post from Rep. Lee Terry

Today President Obama announced new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.  This decision will give consumers more choices for fuel efficient cars and trucks, reduce our country’s reliance on foreign oil and will preserve U.S. manufacturing jobs.  That is a good thing.  There is no doubt we need a national standard.  Congressman Baron Hill and I championed the first CAF? changes in 30 years that were included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Our standards would have increased fuel economy standards in cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 - an increase of 40%.

President Obama now wants to move that requirement up to 2016. This is commendable, but I am a bit concerned about one of the things that we negotiated in the CAF? standard two years ago. We wanted CAF? standard determinations to stay with the NHSTA at the Department of Transportation instead of the EPA.  Right now, NHSTA regulates CAF? standards that include factors like size and vehicle safety to protect passengers.  If the EPA becomes the sole regulator of vehicles, these aspects of assuring safe and reliable vehicles on our roadways might be compromised.  NHSTA should continue to have a role in regulating CAF? standards.

During negotiations of the Energy Act of 2007, Congress recognized that there are engineering and retooling timelines for the automakers.  This new and aggressive deadline to meet the new CAF? standards four years early means it is going to be more costly for manufacturers and could be an economic hardship in the short term.  Two factors are really driving this decision: the need to have a single national standard and the White House's leverage on the auto industry due to TARP funding of Detroit. The government has a financial stake in automakers and, right now, they are using it.

-Congressman Lee Terry represents Nebraska's second district.