PONTIAC, Michigan -- Fearing that increased fuel economy standards will doom the pickup trucks they produce, hundreds of General Motors Corp. workers chanted ''Save our trucks, save our jobs,'' during a meeting Monday with union, company and political leaders.
The ''fuel economy town hall'' was held at the GM Pontiac Truck plant, which builds the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups.
The workers presented U.S. Sen. Carl Levin with a large banner bearing a photograph of one of the trucks they build, emblazoned with their mantra and many signatures as a petition to take to Washington.
''The UAW submits now is not the time to impose onerous, excessive and discriminatory fuel economy standards on General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler that will lead to job loss, which will of course will have an adverse effect on the economy,'' said Richard Shoemaker, international vice president of the United Auto Workers.
The auto companies and the UAW oppose a congressional bill that would raise average fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2013. They believe it would result in the elimination of popular and profitable sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans, known collectively as light trucks.
The current standard is 27.5 miles a gallon for cars and 20.7 miles per gallon for light trucks.
''The proposal ... will do little or nothing for the environment, but do ... a lot to endanger American jobs,'' said Levin, a Democrat.
''No pickup, van or SUV GM builds today could survive the higher requirements,'' said Guy Briggs, GM vice president and general manager for vehicle manufacturing.
Briggs said a better alternative to increasing fuel economy standards would be to encourage the development of alternative fuel or advanced powertrains such as hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles. He said Congress should also offer incentives such as tax credits to consumers who buy such vehicles.
But some environmentalists say that would let the automakers off the hook.
''Unfortunately, the auto industry fails to do its fair share to cut oil dependency,'' said Daniel Becker, director of global warming and energy programs for the Sierra Club. ''It's embarrassing they have their hands out for taxpayer subsidies.''
Similar town halls were scheduled Monday at GM plants in Toledo, Ohio, and Janesville, Wisconsin.
Corporate average fuel economy is the required average fuel economy for all of an automaker's products.
Automakers argue that higher fuel economy standards would force them to build smaller cars that go further on a gallon of gas in a time when sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks that are less fuel efficient are extremely popular.
But U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., whose plan would increase the higher fuel economy standards, said automakers can build cars and trucks that help break the United States' dependence on foreign oil.
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