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EU seeks new car emission rules

Plan draws rebuke from auto industry

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission proposed yesterday binding rules to require carmakers to cut carbon dioxide emissions for new cars, provoking criticism from the European automobile industry as well as from environmentalists who said the regulations did not go far enough.

The proposed rules would require carmakers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars to an average 130 grams per kilometer by 2012. A previous proposal, which the European Union withdrew last week, set a target of 120 grams. EU environmental officials said an additional 10 grams would be cut by encouraging greater use of biofuels, making tires more fuel efficient and creating better traffic management across the 27 member countries in the bloc.

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said the new rules were meant to help rather than hinder Europe's ailing car industry.

"The EU car industries are at the core of our economies," he said. "By positively taking up the climate change challenge, they will preserve and enhance their competitiveness in the long term."

But the automobile industry, which lobbied against the latest proposal, said mandatory rules would undermine Europe economic competitiveness, push companies to cut jobs in Europe and increase prices for new cars. Shares in Porsche, whose powerful models have the highest average carbon dioxide output among major car brands, fell 2 percent after the new strategy was announced.

The European Car Manufacturers Association, which represents 13 automakers, including BMW, Volkswagen and Ford Motor, said the new rules imposed an unfair burden on automakers and constituted an overzealous method to combat global warming.

"Putting the burden mainly on the car industry is the most expensive and least cost-effective method possible," said Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and president of the association. "It will lead to a loss of jobs and the relocation of production outside the EU. "

But environmental groups and green-friendly political parties asserted that the European Commission had caved in to pressure from the automobile industry at a time when fighting climate change was more important than ever.