Rep. Issa: Administration ‘strong-armed’ auto companies into mileage standards

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Friday that President Obama used the bailout of U.S. auto companies to “strong-arm” them into agreeing with high gas-mileage standards.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the standards, which call for cars to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, were negotiated when the U.S. auto industry was financially dependent on the federal government.

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“In the wake of a massive taxpayer funded bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, the Obama administration took aggressive action to force a rulemaking process that reflects ideology over science and politics over process and law,” Issa said of the report in a statement released by his office.

Democrats in Congress and environmental groups sharply criticized Issa for attacking the emission requirements, which are known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

“The automotive industry is one of the greatest economic comebacks of all time, but Republicans want to run it off the road,” Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who sponsored a bill passed by Congress in 2007 to raise the emission rules to 35 miles per gallon, said in statement.

Markey’s mileage requirement of 35 miles per hour was not set to take effect in 2020. He said on Friday that higher fuel economy has been a part of the turnaround of the American auto industry since the bailouts of 2008 and 2009.

“Advanced technology vehicles have rejuvenated what was a failing auto industry, and the historic fuel economy standards will save American households billions at the pump and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Markey said. 

Markey tied Issa’s opposition to the Obama administration’s 54.5 miles-per-gallon requirement to the ongoing presidential campaign, saying “Gov. [Mitt] Romney and Congressional Republicans seem committed to taking the American consumer out of the driver’s seat and putting Big Oil behind the wheel of America’s energy agenda.”

But Issa said Friday that it was the Obama administration that has been overzealous.

“Pleas from career technical experts about passenger safety and consumer choice were ignored by the White House to appease overzealous environmental extremists as this process was forced through,” Issa said.

The Truman National Security Project’s “Operation Free” campaign said the findings of Issa’s report on the Obama administration’s fuel standards were “misguided.”

“Congressman Issa has once again failed to understand that strong CAFE standards will help keep America safe,” the group’s Advocacy Director Brandon Fureigh said in a statement on Friday.

The group argues that reducing America’s dependence on oil produced in foreign countries is unsafe for the United States. 

“The Department of Defense has clearly outlined the national security threats we face due to our dependence on fossil fuels,” Fureigh said. “America sends more than $1 billion per day overseas for oil. Our voracious demand for this single source of fuel ensures high oil prices in a global market, draining our economy and funding our enemies.”

The full report about the gas mileage standards can be read here.

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