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Lawmakers Reach Deal on New Fuel Efficiency Bid


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

We open our program tonight with a closer look at a congressional breakthrough this week on the environment. After months of wrangling, House and Senate negotiators agreed on a deal to increase fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports that high energy prices were among the most important of a long list of factors pushing Congress to act.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: If it ultimately becomes law, the deal would require automakers to increase the average distance their cars and light trucks go on a gallon of gas from 25 miles to 35 miles by the year 2020. Supporters say the deal would save more than a million barrels of oil a year, slash global warming pollution, and cut cost for American families by between 700 and a thousand dollars a year. For decades, the industry resisted changing the standard.

Former Congressman Dave McCurdy is the president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Mr. DAVE McCURDY (President, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers): The industry understands that these concerns of energy security, climate change, and the concern for consumers are so important that we are stepping up to support dramatic and historic increases in fuel economy.

SHOGREN: Representative John Dingell of Michigan has long been the industry's biggest supporter in Congress. He says his concerns about high pump prices, climate change, and the growing worldwide competition for scarce petroleum made him accept the deal.

Representative JOHN DINGELL (Democrat, Michigan): This is not political; this is just the reality in which we live. And the politics is, of course, the response to that.

SHOGREN: Dingell did negotiate some concessions for the industry. Carmakers still will keep getting special credit for selling vehicles that use ethanol and other renewable fuels, and the fuel standards for cars and light trucks will remain separate. The House plans to vote on the deal as part of a broader energy bill as early as Wednesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that measure will also increase the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels for vehicles and require that 15 percent of electricity comes from wind, solar and other renewable power sources.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California says she's delighted by the progress the measure is making.

Senator DIANNE FEINSTEIN (Democratic, California): I'm more hopeful than I have been at any time in the past 10 years.

SHOGREN: But she says she's concerned that some of the provisions in the bill may not pass the hurdle of winning 60 votes in the Senate. And there's no guarantee whether the president will sign the measure.

Sen. FEINSTEIN: Nothing is a sure thing until, as they say, the fat lady sings. I guess, which means the president signs on the dotted line. Democratic

Representative Edward Markey from Massachusetts is a chief sponsor in the House. He's optimistic.

Representative EDWARD MARKEY (Democrat, Massachusetts): My hope is that President Bush will realize the historic moment and put his signature on this new law.

SHOGREN: The auto industry says the only question then will be whether Americans will actually buy the lighter, less powerful vehicles that the industry has to make because of the new rules.

SHOGREN: Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elizabeth Shogren is an NPR News Science Desk correspondent focused on covering environment and energy issues and news.

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