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GM leader says he’ll meet stringent fuel standards

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said Tuesday the automaker is committed to meeting tighter fuel efficiency requirements as he met with House and Senate leaders who could play a role in developing global warming legislation.

Wagoner was on Capitol Hill to meet with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. The two Democrats recently took control of committees with jurisdiction over the auto industry.

Even in its weakened shape, GM has "prioritized all the resources we need to meet fuel economy" standards set to rise during the next decade, Wagoner said. A 2007 energy law required car makers to meet 35 miles per gallon by 2020, a 40 percent increase.

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The Obama administration may allow states to adopt tougher emissions standards developed by California, and Congress is expected to examine a bill this year to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases.

"We are committed to make the standards and our plans enable us to do it, but it’s a fairly significant amount of the product portfolio spending that we have over the next few years," Wagoner said after meeting with Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Wagoner also met with Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has said he will move "quickly and decisively" on a bill to curb greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The GM executive also visited with Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who chairs a subcommittee that will write the initial climate change bill.

The auto industry is closely watching global warming measures in Congress as it deals with a steep drop in auto sales and a weakened economy. GM received $9.4 billion in federal loans to stay afloat and is expected to receive another $4 billion, while Chrysler LLC has received $4 billion in loans and hopes to get another $3 billion.

The companies are required to submit plans next week that will show the government how they will restructure their companies and become profitable while producing a new lineup of fuel-efficient cars.

Markey said he enjoyed meeting with Wagoner "and I look forward to seeing the plan the automakers will put forward next week, which he indicated will outline the auto industry’s plans for introducing more fuel-efficient vehicles into their fleets."

Waxman and Markey have been allies of environmental groups seeking restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions. Waxman unseated Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., an auto industry stalwart, to become chairman of the committee after last November’s election.

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Markey has chaired a separate panel reviewing climate change and toured the Washington Auto Show last week.

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