Congressional leaders reach deal on new fuel economy standard, vote next week

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) reached a deal late Friday night with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA MI ) on a compromise bill to raise fuel economy standards for new cars and trucks to 25 35 mpg 2020. As reported earlier this week, the same threshold would be maintained that was in the Senate bill passed last June. The biggest differences from the earlier Senate bill are the retention of separate standards for cars and trucks as well as calculating import and domestic fleet averages separately.
The last remaining issue that Dingell was pushing for was to clarify the responsibilities of EPA and NHTSA to ensure that the rules they establish are not in conflict with each other. Apparently this was intended to prevent the EPA from allowing California to set CO2 limits that would in effect create mileage standards higher than those set by congress and NHTSA. Pelosi refused to give in on that issue and it was ultimately left out of the bill.

Biofuels did make it into the 1,000-page bill however. Car-makers will continue to get credit for building and selling flex-fuel vehicles even though availability and use of such fuels is still very limited. Biofuel producers also got a break with a provision that would require at least 20.5 billion gallons of biofuel (ethanol or diesel) to be blended into other fuels by 2015. A quarter of that amount will be required to come from non-food sources such as cellulosic ethanol or algae biodiesel. Beyond 2015 the biofuel requirement would be indexed based on increased production capacity.

The plan now is to put the bill to a vote in the House by Wednesday of next week. Senate negotiators were also involved in the discussions and the identical bill will be voted on in the Senate after the House passes it. This will avoid additional delays to get the bills matched up in conference committee afterward. Democratic leaders hope to send the bill to the President before the end of the year.

[Source: Detroit News, Automotive News - Sub. req'd]

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