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Toyota Camry SE V6

Dodge Charger SRT-8
The auto industry says that a proposed Senate bill has requirement that are unattainable

It seems that while traffic congestion has gotten progressively worse over the past ten years, Americans have had a hankering for going nowhere faster. Fuel economy numbers haven't increased nearly as much as horsepower has in today's vehicles.

Your garden variety family sedans are now considered underpowered if they don't have at least a 250HP engine available on the option sheet. The Toyota Camry, America's best-selling car, is available with a 3.5 liter V6 engine putting out 263HP and can blast 0-60 in the low six second range. The V6-powered Camry is rated at 19/28 (highway/city), under the new 2008 EPA mileage ratings.

Chrysler is no stranger to high horsepower sedans, either. The company's Chrysler 300C and Dodge Charger R/T come equipped with 5.7 liter 340HP Hemi V8 engines (15/23) -- if that isn't enough, the 6.1 liter 300 SRT-8 and Charger SRT-8 pump out 425HP (13/18).

America's thirst for speed and auto manufacturers' propensity to quench that thirst may be coming to an end if a proposed Senate bill introduced by Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) passes. The new bill would require fleetwide CAFE standards for auto manufacturers to increase dramatically over the next 13 years. Fuel economy would have to rise from 27.5MPG for cars to 28.5MPG by 2015. That number would then jump to 35MPG by the year 2020 with 4% annual increases thereafter.

The 27.5MPG standard has held steady for nearly 20 years due to lobbying by auto manufacturers.

Not surprisingly, auto manufacturers aren't too happy with the proposed bill. "Basically, it is unattainable up until 2020 and unattainable afterward," said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "We think this is still going to be a big burden on Americans who need work vehicles."

The auto manufacturers, however, aren't the only ones against the new bill. Fellow democratic senator Carl Levin represents Michigan and thinks that the bill is misguided. "More progress can be made in reducing oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions if we focus our resources on leap-ahead technologies instead of forcing companies to make incremental improvements to meet an arbitrary standard," said Levin.

In early April, President Bush called for the United States to reduce its gasoline usage 20 percent by the year 2017. Bush noted that the move would cost the industry roughly $114 billion USD between 2010 and 2017 to comply.

Updated 5/8/2007: The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee today approved the bill.





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