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Bush Calls For Cuts In Vehicle Emissions

Bush's announcement yesterday came more than a month after the Supreme Court admonished his administration for failing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. The court said the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the responsibility to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists say contribute to global warming. The administration had argued that it did not have that authority or obligation under the act.

Yesterday, the administration went to federal appeals court in San Francisco to fight a lawsuit brought by 11 states, the District and four environmental groups that said the Transportation Department's 1.3 mile-per-gallon increase in standards for light trucks was inadequate. California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., the lead plaintiff in the case, yesterday called the increase "pathetic and illegal."

Meanwhile, Bush renewed his call for a government mandate to boost the use of alternative fuels to 35 billion gallons by 2017, nearly seven times the current level. Together with greater fuel efficiency, the initiatives would cut gasoline usage by 20 percent from what it would otherwise be in 2017 and stop the growth of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions within 10 years, according to the White House.

One obstacle to raising fuel efficiency through legislation is John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In a speech at the Detroit Economic Club yesterday, Dingell said that "it's time to move beyond what has become a stale and sterile debate over corporate average fuel economy standards." He added, "it is becoming clear that regulating miles per gallon is no longer adequate."

Dingell said that vehicles account for only 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and that he would insist on a cap-and-trade system that would "spread the burden evenly and equally" over the economy.

A week ago, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, spoke at the same venue. He blamed automakers for much of their financial problems and said higher fuel efficiency would help them and the country.

"It is neither my place, nor my purpose, to provide a point-by-point rebuttal to last week's speech," Dingell, a longtime friend of the auto industry, said. "I admire Senator Obama's enthusiasm and his desire to focus on solutions. But with all due respect, as the Sopranos would say, I would not travel to Chicago for the purpose of teaching people how to butcher hogs."

Staff writer Sonya Geis in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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