Highway agency moving toward new alt fuel rules

The Obama administration is moving forward with another fuel efficiency rule that would cost automakers more than $14 million each year, according to government estimates.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Wednesday it is considering a new rule that would require car manufacturers to indicate which vehicles can operate on alternative fuels and explain which alternative fuels they can use, such as ethanol, biodiesel, vegetable oil, hydrogen or electric batteries.

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The NHTSA said the rules, which come from the Energy Independence and Security Act, would help move the nation toward energy independence.

"Renewable alternative fuels produced in the United States are less vulnerable to supply disruptions and price variability associated with imported fuels," the agency wrote in the Federal Register. "Helping the public to better understand the benefits of these alternative fuels and to better recognize the vehicles that use them should increase their use, thereby replacing petroleum use and increasing national energy security."

The NHTSA plans to propose the rule in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register. The rule would apply to all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks that are sold in the U.S.

These rules follow on the heels of other fuel efficiency rules from the Obama administration that require carmakers to provide drivers with information about their fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming emissions so they can compare vehicles.

Under the new rules, car manufacturers would be required to take three steps to indicate which vehicles can run on alternative fuels, to increase awareness and education about alternative fuels, the NHTSA said.

First, they would be required to attach a label to a prominent area of the car, such as the windshield or one of the side windows, highlighting that the vehicle can operate with alternative fuels.

The rule would also require a second sticker to be affixed to the fuel tank compartment to explain which alternative fuels the car can use.

Finally, manufacturers would also be required to explain the benefits of alternative fuels in the owner's manual.