He supports low-sulfur fuel, which reduces harmful automotive emissions, even though the oil industry in his home state of Texas opposes it. He says we can keep gasoline prices down by eliminating regulatory barriers to new petroleum refineries.
He was interviewed by Edward Lapham, editor of Automotive News, and Staff Reporter Harry Stoffer during a campaign stop in Detroit on Oct. 13.
If you're elected, what would your administration do with corporate average fuel economy?
We'd leave it where it is and let the marketplace adjust. The market is going to sort through standards and efficiencies. I do think Tier 2 gasoline standards are relevant to the industry. It is important that we get low-sulfur fuels nationally, including diesel fuels.
It's an interesting question you ask because that subject has been brought up by some executives. There is a stigma against diesel here that there's not in Europe, and yet some would argue that diesel is a cleaner-burning fuel if done properly. If that's the case, that will help national air standards.
What about the oil company claims that they can't go any lower on sulfur and car companies saying they have to have near-zero sulfur? Would you side with the car companies?
I would side with reasonable environmental policy. I wouldn't view it one industry vs. another. The way I like to say it is clean air is important for America. We need to work together to achieve that in terms of Tier 2.
In the end, it may come down to picking between what the carmakers want and what the oil companies want. How do you approach that decision?
I do what's right for the country. It's not going to be that just because I'm from Texas we're going to forget about that (principle).
We need the refining capacity. The problem is we're at a bottleneck in production. We haven't built refineries in 10 years. This nation does not have an energy policy. There is a notion that somehow we can conserve our way to energy independence, and that's just simply not realistic.
Would you endorse a proposal that is currently before Congress providing a tax break for people buying advanced-technology vehicles, such as those powered by hybrid gasoline-electric or fuel cells?
I haven't spent that much time analyzing that because my priorities are general tax relief, getting rid of the death tax and the marriage penalty and (establishing) education savings accounts. That consumes most of the amount of money I'm willing to spend on tax relief.
What do you think about continuing initiatives such as the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles program, which supports joint government-industry research on future cars and trucks?
Yes, I would to the current extent. One of the things I've said that's important to do, for example, is to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and use the bonus bids from the explorationists as conservation funds at the federal level to help explore different sources of energy.
But let's also be realistic. Some of these interesting proposals are not commercial yet, and it's going to be very difficult for our country to think about the future without understanding the commercial realities of what's being proposed.
I want our nation to develop the best and cleanest technologies possible, but I also understand America. Some of these technologies may be appropriate for close-in driving where there's a lot of people living on top of each other, but there are states like Texas, California and Michigan where people drive longer distances.
Have the automotive executives talked to you about global warming?
They know my position on the Kyoto Treaty. That came clear in the debate. I am going to be mindful of global warming; it's an issue we have to take seriously. The solution is not going to be to load up the industrialized nations with all the burden.
In the light of recent UAW ads criticizing you, what are your views on workers' receiving compensatory time off instead of overtime pay?
I believe that a worker should be able to take overtime hours and convert it to pay or comp time on a comparable basis. A company must offer the worker both; nobody's going to take away the worker's ability to collect overtime in cash.
A lot of families are stressed. The two most efficient ways of providing family time is tax relief and giving people the flexibility of using comp time as extra hours to spend with the family. That's a worker's right to choose, and the law ought to give workers flexibility.
At their discretion?
At their discretion, not the company's.