CAFE correspondence has plenty of bipartisan back-patting

Christina Rogers covers VW and regulatory/legislative issues for Automotive News.

Let the campaigning begin.

A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter last week to the federal government’s top auto industry regulators letting the regulators know that the senators endorse the administration’s proposed new corporate average fuel economy standards.

Yes, the same standards announced, oh, back in July.

They also made sure to let EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation regulators know that it was Congress that made these proposed rules possible and handed over power to the regulators. (Insert pat on the back here.)

The senators are referring to the 2007 Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act, which set the wheels in motion for developing the current fuel economy proposal that, as the letter states, “unifies state and federal regulations into a single regime.”

The letter, dated Feb. 17, is addressed to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

After heaping praise on the proposed 2017-25 model year regulations, it concludes with a three-page list of 30 signatures, starting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and including some usual suspects, such as Michigan Democrats Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

So what’s behind this uncanny show of bipartisan support?

Well, let’s remember that Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has mounted his own crusade to beat back CAFE.

Not all Republicans agree, and with this being an election year, politicians are working hard to chisel out their stances.

The proposed CAFE rules, which got the backing of 13 major automakers, likely will become effective when EPA and DOT make the final call this summer with some minor tweaks.

The proposed rules would double today’s fuel economy requirements to 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model year. The industry is for the most part on board with them. So are other stakeholders, with the exception of the National Automobile Dealers Association, which fears the rules will increase new car costs.

So what’s the hubbub all about? Again, it’s an election year. It’s the auto industry. And it’s time for some victory laps.

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