A highly anticipated congressional hearing Wednesday on the automobile industry's role in global warming turned out to be more lovefest than slugfest.
The net effect was that top automaker executives and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger agreed to work with lawmakers on broad-based legislation aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the economy.
Details are yet to be determined.
But instead of beating up the Detroit 3 CEOs and Toyota Motor North America President Jim Press, lawmakers mainly asked for their help in writing legislation. Some also gushed about the products automakers build, the investments they make and the good jobs they create.
One exception was Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who chastised executives who called the corporate average fuel economy program, or CAFE, a failure.
Markey said U.S. oil imports dropped in the decade after CAFE was enacted in 1975. Imports have risen since 1985 only because government stopped increasing CAFE standards and because the industry has done little to reduce vehicle fuel consumption voluntarily, he said.
Markey is chairing a special committee created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to study global warming and recommend remedies. He and others want sharply higher fuel economy standards to combat global warming.
But the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose members held Wednesday's hearing, indicated they are moving ahead with their own climate legislation.
Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., chairman of the subcommittee on energy and air quality, said he and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the full committee chairman, have established these goals:
The controls on greenhouse gases must be mandatory and spread across all industry sectors.
The bill must not disrupt the economy.
The bill must have bipartisan support and it must be capable of passing the House and Senate and being signed by the president.
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, ranking Republican on the committee, said such a bill would be a "miracle of biblical proportions."
Boucher asked the executives to consider how the existing CAFE program would fit into a national cap-and-trade program for controlling greenhouse gases.
The executives testified mostly about the progress they have been making in developing fuel saving technology and how simple increases in fuel economy standards are not the answer to global warming or worries about energy supplies.
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