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Planet Ark World Environment News Big Auto Makers Want Bush to Act on Energy - WSJ

Date: 27-Sep-05
Country: USA

As Hurricane Rita bore down last week on US Gulf Coast oil refineries, Ford Chairman and Chief Executive William Clay Ford Jr. sent a letter to President George W. Bush asking for an energy summit involving auto makers, suppliers, fuel providers, consumers and government officials, the newspaper said.

It quoted Ford as saying a summit would focus on what the auto industry can do to find solutions for alternative fuel resources and that the recently signed $17 billion energy bill "is only the beginning."

Last week, Ford announced plans to increase production of gas-electric hybrid models to as many as 250,000 vehicles a year by the end of 2010. Ford also plans to produce more cars and trucks that run on ethanol.

Separately, the Journal reported that Jim Press, head of Toyota's US operations, said he planned to go to Washington next month to lobby lawmakers to make energy independence an issue in the election campaign of 2008.

"We recognize the responsibility we have to come up with a solution to this economic problem," Press was quoted as saying. "As an industry, we should leave our individual companies' bags outside the door to work together on this issue."

General Motors Corp.'s Washington spokesman, Chris Preuss, told the newspaper GM welcomes calls by other auto makers for more action on energy independence.

"We believe the US needs to begin aggressive energy policy moves away from petroleum toward hydrogen," Preuss was quoted as saying. "We should diversify our energy stocks away from foreign sources."

The newspaper said Ford's call for an energy summit is another sign that the recent run-up in oil prices, and the post-Hurricane Katrina price spike that sent gasoline prices above $3 a gallon, are forcing a rethink of energy strategy, particularly at GM and Ford.

The big Detroit car makers have long resisted proposals to increase government fuel-economy mandates for sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and other light trucks, arguing that consumers would not want lighter, smaller, less powerful vehicles.

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