Yesterday, Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow voted against the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. The bill contains a number of provisions aimed at curbing price gouging, requiring that half of the new cars manufactured by 2015 can run on E85 or biodiesel fuel, creating new standards for appliance and lighting efficiency, and some federal money for research into fuel efficient vehicles. The most significant part of the bill is an increase in fuel economy (CAFE) standards by 40% by 2020 from the current 27.5 MPG for cars and 22.2 MPG for SUVs and small trucks to 35 MPG.
Levin and Stabenow were two of the only three Democrats to vote against the bill. Both Levin and Stabenow cited the new CAFE standards expressed disappointment that a compromise measure favored by the two Senators could not be reached. Stabenow and Levin favored a measure that would required a 30% increase in fuel economy standards for cars by 2022 and a 35% increase for trucks by 2025, in addition to requiring automobile manufacturers to make a percentage of their vehicles flexible fuel or advanced technology vehicles. Instead, Levin asserted that he would not support the bill because it “will unfairly disadvantage our American manufacturers against their global competitors.” Levin also objected to the bill’s combining of standards for cars and trucks, as he favored a distinction between the two rather than the fuel standards in the final bill that he described as “overly aggressive and unachievable.” Senator Stabenow said “we need a plan that stretches the industry, not breaks it.”
The higher standards were strongly opposed by automakers that have claimed it threatens the viability of the industry. Both Levin and Stabenow have received campaign contributions from individuals and PACs associated with the “Big Three” automakers according to the Center for Responsive Politics.