Wanted: A high-powered lobbyist willing to represent the auto industry forcefully in extended, complicated negotiations over 2017-25 fuel economy standards.
That's the essence of the job advertisement to be posted next year by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the leading industry lobby in Washington, as it seeks a new CEO to replace Dave McCurdy.
McCurdy, 60, a former conservative Democratic congressman from Oklahoma, stepped down last week to become CEO of the American Gas Association.
The alliance's highest priority is to again secure a single national standard for the average fuel economy and tailpipe emissions of cars and light trucks, said Gloria Bergquist, the group's spokeswoman. The alliance represents the Detroit 3, Toyota and eight other automakers.
This year the Obama administration adopted a combined car and light-truck corporate average fuel economy target of 35.5 mpg by 2016, a 30 percent increase from the 27.3 mpg standard for the 2011 model year. The uniform standard emerged from a historic agreement involving federal and state regulators, the auto industry and environmentalists. McCurdy played a key role in hammering out the agreement.
The industry lobbied for a single benchmark to avoid a crazy quilt of mpg targets among the states and federal government.
In October, the administration released a preliminary proposal to reduce fuel consumption 3 to 6 percent a year from 2017 to 2025. The plan could lead to standards of as much as 62 mpg by the 2025 model year.
At the time, the alliance said the administration's targets "are based on very preliminary and incomplete data at this point."
The EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation plan to issue a formal proposal for public comment next September after discussions with the states, auto industry and environmental groups. Final approval of the standards is due in summer 2012.
Last week the alliance chose its general counsel, John Whatley, to head the group on an interim basis as it searches for a CEO. Whatley, 59, has worked at the alliance on environmental and safety issues, dealer relations and consumer protection.