White House Played Hardball To Set 54.5-MPG Standards

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President Obama inspects the 2011 Chevrolet Volt

President Obama inspects the 2011 Chevrolet Volt

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Politics is hardball, as every election season shows us.

And getting very, very large and powerful auto companies to do something they really don't want to do is very, very hard.

Even, that is, if you have a few useful levers, in the form of independent California regulators supported by a Supreme Court decision and the Government-funded bailout of two of the three U.S. automakers.

So as Detroit News Washington correspondent David Shepardson recounts in a pair of articles published Friday, the Obama Administration had to play hardball to get automakers to agree to support corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for 2017-2025 vehicles proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

And foreign automakers believe the resulting rules were skewed to give an advantage to the three domestic automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler (now part of Fiat).

That conclusion is contained in a report by the staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa [R-CA].

Rep. Issa is a consistent critic of President Obama, of fuel-efficiency rules, and of government regulation in general (he invited automakers to list what regulations they wanted to kill the day the Republican-led House took office in January 2011).

Facebook post by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) concerning Chevrolet Volt electric car, January 2012

Facebook post by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) concerning Chevrolet Volt electric car, January 2012

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Issa is also known as the elected official who summoned General Motors CEO Dan Akerson to Washington, D.C., to testify to a committee hearing on the safety of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car following a June fire in the battery pack of a Volt several days after it was wrecked in a NHTSA crash test.

You may choose to view the committee's report with those points of view in mind.

Akerson testified at that hearing that the battery pack and the Volt overall were safe, and the NHTSA strongly asserted that it "acted proportionately" in investigating the problem.

Rather than summarize the articles, we recommend that you read them in full to get a sense of the complaints from Toyota, Honda, and other non-U.S. automakers.

Shepardson's two articles (which duplicate some material) in the Detroit News Friday edition are:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adminstrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adminstrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama

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Report shows bitter fuel rules talks

and

White House defends fuel efficiency deal

What do you think of the resulting 54.5-mpg fuel efficiency standards that will be required by 2025? (That level translates to 40 to 45 mpg on the new-car window sticker, by the way, which is a lower rating than the one earned by today's Toyota Prius hybrid.)

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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