The Bush administration Feb. 28 will announce that it opposes a Democratic proposal to require dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency for cars and trucks sold in the United States, according to the Los Angeles Times
. The move sharpens the partisandivide over energy policy.While the Democratic plan would mandate specificfuel economy increases over the 10 years, the White House will urge that Congress instead authorize the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to set the standards in the future, according to the Times
.Environmentalists and many Democrats fear such a process would provide too much leverage to the auto industry and undercut efforts to impose tougher fuel economy standards. But the idea could have considerable appeal to Democrats from automobile-manufacturing states, who are facing intense resistance to themandated increase from auto companies and the United Auto Workers (UAW).The Senate is expected to start debating the energy bill within days. The fuel economy standards called for in the Democratic bill would require cars and SUVs to reach an average performance of 35 miles per gallon by 2013.