Environmental group: Auto industry 'owes' emission standards after bailouts

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The Obama administration has often noted that its proposal for a new emissions standard for cars has been supported by U.S. auto companies.

The proposal has come under fire from Republicans, however. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has said that the Obama administration "strong-armed" the auto industry into supporting the emission requirements after the bailout, and he celebrated a recent delay in finalizing the new rules.

Becker and Gerstenzang said in their article that after the bailouts, the U.S. auto industry "might have begun to learn a crucial lesson: A profitable future lies in clean, high-tech vehicles."

But the op-ed continued that "[E]ven so, automakers need to be watched.

"Even as they signed on to the president's signal environmental achievement, their lobbying won loopholes," Becker and Gerstenzang wrote.

"The rules set weaker requirements for fleets with larger vehicles, favoring U.S. car companies, which build mostly large models," the article continued. "The standards use a sliding scale based on size to determine how much each company's fleet must improve mileage and cut emissions. A company that shifts to big cars from compacts has leeway to produce a fleet that falls below 54.5 mpg."

The Department of Transportation has said that the emissions rules will be finalized soon.