The news at a glance

Detroit: White House wants 56 mpg cars; Commodities: Rare-earth metals aren’t so rare; Treasury: Is Geithner heading for the exit?; Cyberwars: Computer outlaws do some self-policing; Life insurance: Are benefits going unclaimed?

Detroit: White House wants 56 mpg cars

The Obama administration is asking the auto industry to double fuel efficiency for cars in the U.S. by 2025, said Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post. Its proposal to raise the mileage standard to 56.2 miles per gallon, up from 30.2 mpg today, would “cut the nation’s oil consumption and carbon output significantly.” But the proposal has sparked resistance from U.S. automakers, who are pressing for a fuel efficiency of between 42.6 and 46.7 mpg. While the White House and Detroit continue to negotiate, environmentalists are lobbying hard for the higher figure, arguing that the federal government’s $89 billion bailout of the industry required it to build fuel-efficient cars.

Carmakers contend that the Obama proposal would have the effect of requiring most new vehicles sold in the U.S. to be battery-powered, said Josh Mitchell and Sharon Terlep in The Wall Street Journal. For that reason, Detroit estimates that a 56 mpg requirement would drive sticker prices up by as much as $6,000 per vehicle. Government officials say the new standards would add only between $770 and $3,500 to the average price of a new car—far less, they say, than what consumers would save in fuel costs. U.S. automakers have boosted the fuel efficiency of their fleets by more than 70 percent since 1975.

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Commodities: Rare-earth metals aren’t so rare

A study published this week in the British journal Nature Geoscience claims that the deep-sea mud in the Pacific Ocean is “potentially the biggest source of rare-earth mineral deposits in the world,” said Kevin Kwang in The findings, made by Japanese scientists, said numerous sites in international waters of the Pacific contain high concentrations of yttrium and other rare-earth elements. The minerals are vital for making magnets, batteries, and electronics, for use in products from flat-screen televisions to hybrid cars. Currently, China produces 97 percent of the world’s rare-earth metals.

Treasury: Is Geithner heading for the exit?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has signaled to White House officials that he’s considering leaving the administration after President Obama concludes budget negotiations with Congress, said Hans Nichols in An exit by Geithner would leave the president with another key economic post to fill just “as Republicans are seeking to turn the 2012 election into a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy.” In response to the reports, Geithner said he would remain on the job “for the foreseeable future.”

Cyberwars: Computer outlaws do some self-policing

Hackers have a new target: other hackers, said Somini Sengupta and Nick Bilton in The New York Times. A group calling itself the A-Team published “a trove of private information” about members of another hacker group, Lulz Security, to “help law-enforcement officials lock them up.” LulzSec, which announced last month that it was disbanding, has claimed attacks on the CIA, Sony, and the Arizona police. Another hacker group this week breached Fox News’s Twitter account to falsely announce that President Obama had been assassinated.

Life insurance: Are benefits going unclaimed?

New York’s attorney general has subpoenaed at least nine life-insurance companies as part of an investigation into whether they are doing enough to ensure that payouts are issued after a death, said Leslie Scism The Wall Street Journal. State authorities also reportedly sent letters to more than 160 insurance firms requesting that they check their policies against a Social Security death database. Although life-insurance contracts typically state that beneficiaries must give notice of a death, 35 states are currently auditing how frequently proceeds go unclaimed.

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