Auto Mileage Bill Introduced in Congress

THIRTY-FIVE senators introduced legislation Jan. 28 to raise federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars, saying the Persian Gulf war has dramatically illustrated why the nation must reduce its oil consumption. The bill, similar to legislation that stalled in the Senate late last year, would require automakers to increase the average fuel economy of their fleets from the current standard of 27.5 miles a gallon to 34.4 miles per gallon by the 1996 model-year and then 40.1 mpg by 2001. Supporters said the bill would save 2.8 million barrels of oil a day when fully implemented -- the largest single step the nation could take to reduce its dependence on Mideast oil.

``There is no better argument for reducing our dependence on foreign oil than the news reports from the Persian Gulf,'' said Sen. Richard Bryan (D) of Nevada, a prime sponsor of the bill. ``This is the human price of dependence on foreign oil supplies.''

Proponents of the bill also argue better fuel economy will help cut auto emissions of carbon dioxide, the main ``greenhouse gas'' blamed for global warming.

Domestic and foreign carmakers claim they do not have the technological know-how to meet the standards set by the Bryan-Gorton bill and still maintain the range of models now available. They say the only solution would be to make cars smaller, reducing passenger safety in the event of crashes.

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