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GM Seeks to Weaken Clean Air Restrictions On Diesel Engines

August 6, 2001

General Motors Corp., having won the first round of its fight to stave off significantly tougher federal fuel-economy standards, is quietly planning a push to weaken the nation's clean-air rules to allow wider use of diesel engines as fuel-saving alternatives to thirsty gasoline light-truck engines, according to a story by Jeffrey Ball in the Wall Street Journal.The world's biggest automaker is taking its pro-diesel campaign public with a report scheduled to be issued Aug. 6 by the Diesel TechnologyForum, a trade group based in Herndon, Va. GM is the only automaker in the group, which includes manufacturers of diesel engines and diesel-system components, as well as Exxon Mobil Corp., the Irving, Texas, oil company.The report points out that although diesels accounted for less than one percent of new carand light-truck sales in the U.S. for 2000, they are surging in popularity in Western Europe, where they constituted about one-third of new sales. Diesels can get at least 30 percent better fuel economy than comparablysized gasoline engines -- an important advantage in Europe, where gasoline prices are high.Tax policies in some European countries encourage diesel use, but so do European clean-air standards, which are more lenient than anew round of U.S. rules toward the pollutants associated with diesel motors.These new clean-air rules in the U.S., the report claims, "constitute a significant challenge for the future of diesel vehicles in America." GM officials say they hope to persuade government officials to take a hard look at those regulations, set to take effect starting in 2004.
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