Monday, May 14, 2007

Bush urges cooperation on fuel rules (Houston Chronical)

But White House might not issue final plan until his term nearly done


WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday ordered agencies within his administration to cooperate on creating a new regulation to lower fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But the White House doesn't plan to issue a final rule until the very last days of Bush's term in office.

Responding to last month's Supreme Court ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency must take action under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, Bush has directed his administration to draw up a regulation — patterned on his State of the Union address proposal — to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent over 10 years.

That plan called for dramatically expanding the use of renewable energy sources and increasing fuel mileage requirements for cars and light trucks.

"When it comes to energy and the environment, the American people expect common sense, and they expect action," Bush said in a ceremony in the White House's Rose Garden. Bush's announcement came as AAA reported Monday that the national, average price for regular unleaded gasoline had hit a record of $3.07 a gallon.

The previous record of $3.05 per gallon was set in September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hobbled the nation's fuel-making capabilities.

In Houston, gasoline was $2.89 on average for a gallon of regular unleaded. The highest average ever in Houston was $2.97, according to AAA. That, too, came in Katrina's wake.

The current run-up in gasoline prices has been caused by rising crude prices, higher consumer demand this year, reduced gasoline imports and downtime at refineries.

The president's announcement also followed word that German-based DaimlerChrysler would sell a controlling interest in the troubled American car manufacturer Chrysler to equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

Bush's State of the Union address proposal called for increasing fuel-efficiency standards by 4 percent a year, starting in model year 2010 for cars and 2012 for light trucks.

Administration officials calculate such a change would reduce gasoline consumption by 8.5 billion gallons in 2017, representing a 5 percent reduction in the gasoline usage expected by that year.

Bush's State of the Union proposal also called for mandating that the American driving public use 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017.

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