WASHINGTON: Confronted with congressional concerns about global warming, leaders of the US auto industry are highlighting their work to develop alternative vehicles and asserting that burdens of climate change cannot fall to one industry alone.
Leaders of General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Chrysler made a rare joint appearance before a House subcommittee today noting that proposed increases in gas mileage standards for new vehicles would be extremely expensive and challenging.
A panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee was to hear from Rick Wagoner, General Motors Corp.’s chairman and chief executive; Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally; Toyota Motor Corp.’s North American President Jim Press; and Tom LaSorda, president and CEO of DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group.
Press, in remarks prepared for delivery to the hearing, noted that Toyota “has long been mindful of and accepts the broad scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and will continue unless there are significant and coordinated global efforts to slow the growth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Toyota executive said the auto industry “has a responsibility to be part of the solution, but these issues cannot be addressed by this industry alone.”
Congress was hearing from automakers at a time when many lawmakers are concerned about global warming and seeking ways to require more fuel efficiency in vehicles. The White House is targeting a 4% increase in fuel economy requirements and wants to change the way rules are applied.
Some members of Congress view the auto industry as a logical place to begin tackling global warming and are wary of giving the government and industry too much flexibility in meeting higher standards.
Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, a leading proponent of higher gas mileage standards, outlined legislation meant to increase requirements by at least 4% every year for a fleetwide average of 35 miles per 1 gallon by 2018,an improvement of about 10 mpg (16 kpg) from current levels.
Raising fuel economy standards could lead to more costs and job losses. New efficiency requirements need to be coupled with tax incentives to encourage domestic production of advanced vehicles.
Diversification is expected through hybrid and electric cars, vehicles running on diesel and ethanol and development of hydrogen fuel cells.
Last year leaders of GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler said that by 2010 they would double production of “flexible fuel” vehicles, which can run on ethanol blends of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. They have a target of building 2 million of these vehicles a year by then, but its worth noting that less than 1% of the nation’s 170,000 gas stations now offer E85, most of which are found in the Midwest.
Democratic Rep.confirmed that any legislation crafted to deal with global warming needs to be broad in its scope. He said, “We are not going to concentrate on one industry, area or part of the problem, rather look at the picture in its entirety.”