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Automakers Fear Push for Tougher Mileage Standards With AM-US-Iraq, Bjt

August 8, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Middle East crisis is focusing attention on a bitterly contested effort that would require cars to have a fuel efficiency of 40 miles-per-gallon by 2001, industry and consumer advocates say.

″We have been reminded that we squandered the breathing space of the 1980s - not using that period of low prices constructively to lessen our dependence on foreign oil,″ Sen Richard Bryan said.

Bryan, D-Nev., introduced the bill that would mandate significant fuel economy improvement.

Automakers oppose the bill, saying its goals are technologically unrealistic and would require drastic reductions in automobile weight.

All but the smallest cars would disappear from showrooms, they say, and many consumers would keep their old gas guzzlers rather than crowd the family into a subcompact.

″It’s an attempt to legislate the family car out of existence,″ General Motors spokesman Bill Noack said this week.

Under current law, new car fleets - all the cars a company manufactures in a model year - are required to average at least 27.5 miles per gallon. The Bryan bill would require each company to boost its average 20 percent by the 1995 model year and 40 percent by 2001.

Charles Lockwood, general counsel of the Association of International Automobile Manufactrers, said the situation in the Mideast may make the bill harder to fight.

″We fear the Senate may take action without considering all the consequences,″ he said.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the measure in April. Bryan spokesman Jim Mulhall said floor debate is expected next month.

Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner told Congress in March that the Bush administration opposes the bill and a spokesman said developments in the Middle East had not altered that position.

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