WASHINGTON — The political bidding war over higher fuel economy standards is going nuclear.
The leading Democratic presidential candidate, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, called last week for cars and trucks to average 55 mpg by 2030 — more than double today's vehicle performance. Even supporters of substantially increased standards say Clinton's plan is unrealistic.
Another Democratic contender, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, is more aggressive, demanding 50 mpg by 2017. But Clinton is far more likely to be her party's nominee.
Clinton announced her plan at a campaign stop in Iowa, a major corn-growing state. The proposal includes a huge boost in biofuels, including corn-based ethanol.
Clinton's plan emerged as the price of crude oil neared $100 a barrel for the first time. Gasoline pumps across the country reflected that rapid increase.
At the same time, much of the auto industry continued lobbying to soften a measure before Congress that would impose a 35-mpg fuel economy standard by 2020. But Clinton's proposal, which includes a 40-mpg standard by 2020, suggests the fight may be just beginning.