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Energy Bill On Front Burner In Congress

December 4, 2007

St. Paul, MN – When Congressional leaders announced they had reached a deal to raise the automobile fleet gasoline mileage average to 35 miles per gallon (mpg), their action was cheered by a group of Minnesotans, from legislators to automotive plant workers. This week, the U.S. House is expected to approve a bill requiring automakers to accomplish this goal by 2020.

The plan has the support of a coalition of Minnesota state lawmakers. Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Rep. Aaron Peterson(DFL-Appleton) says it also promotes renewable fuels, which will have a big impact in Minnesota.

"We'll see a lot of investment in rural parts of the state. And we'll see the dollars flowing and jobs occurring and farmers being profitable, and Main Street flourishing once again."

Peterson says the higher fuel standards will ease drivers' pain at the pump, help clean the air and reduce the nation's need for imported oil. The provisions are part of a broad energy bill Congressional leaders say they hope to send to President Bush before Christmas.

Peterson says support for higher fuel-mileage vehicles is growing.

"A majority of Americans support a bill of this magnitude because of the dynamic in the world. Energy supplies, oil prices and unstable governments are driving Americans to wake up to our own ability to be energy-independent."

The fuel increase would be the first in 32 years. The current fleet requirement is 27.5 mpg.

Gary Muenzhuber is with the Autoworkers of Minnesota, which has been trying to keep Minnesota's St. Paul Ford plant open. He says higher-mileage vehicles would be good for automakers, auto dealers and workers in those industries.

"A 35-mpg-by-2020 fuel economy boost would create about 240,000 jobs in the U.S., including about 23,000 in the auto industry. It would boost the domestic automakers' profit by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and probably save another 35,000 jobs. Detroit just needs to produce the product that we know they can produce. And it's just as good for the public, for the people out there buying and for the dealerships who really need it, because they're hurting as bad as we are in layoffs."

Muenzhuber says the technology is there, and domestic automakers must build more fuel-efficient cars if the industry is to survive.

Jim Wishner/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - MN