WASHINGTON-Michelin North America and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. have joined a coalition supporting a federal mandate to use asphalt rubber in some federally funded highway projects. But Goodyear opposes the mandate, both on a general stand against ``unfunded mandates'' and in the belief that tire-derived fuel is a more useful technology than asphalt rubber. The company insists, however, that it believes asphalt rubber is technologically sound.
Section 1038 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 requires state highway departments to use an ever increasing amount of rubberized asphalt as a prerequisite for receiving federal highway funds. The amount increases from 5 percent of highway projects this year to 20 percent in 1997.
This year's Transportation Department appropriations package, however, has a clause preventing the Federal Highway Administration from using any of its funds to enforce that regulation.
The clause was sponsored by Rep. Bob Carr, D-Mich., in answer to the complaints of state highway officials and conventional asphalt manufacturers that asphalt rubber is an unproven technology.
President Clinton's 1995 budget renews the Carr amendment, and several legislators have announced plans to try to get Section 1038 modified or even rescinded.
To counter this effort, a group of about 120 industry, environmental and public interest groups joined last February to form the Recycled Tires for Better Roads Coalition.
The coalition supports Section 1038 on the grounds that rubberized asphalt is long-lasting, energy-efficient, cost-effective and an excellent way to address the scrap tire problem.
Among the principal organizations supporting the coalition are the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, the Rubber Pavements Association and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
Michelin and Cooper joined the coalition after its February formation. ``Asphalt rubber seems to us a very legitimate use of excess tires,'' a Cooper spokesman said.
A Michelin spokesman credited the NTDRA's example with his company's decision to join the pro-Section 1038 effort.
``It's been our position for some time that asphalt rubber is a viable solution to the scrap tire problem, though not the only solution,'' he said. ``We heard of the NTDRA's efforts on behalf of Section 1038, and that's consistent with our position, so we joined them.''
Doug Howell, director of the coalition, is delighted with Michelin's and Cooper's participation. ``We have tire dealers who've supported us all along,'' he said. ``But having tire manufacturers join the coalition is very important.''
Goodyear, however, is holding out for ``free market development of scrap tire management programs,'' according to a company spokesman.
``We would encourage and support accelerated research by the states and the Rubber Pavements Association to find out where and under what conditions asphalt rubber is most useful,'' the Goodyear spokesman said.
``Certainly we are not against asphalt rubber,'' he added. ``Several of our operations-particularly our Micron Materials division in Cleveland-produce crumb rubber and other materials which can be used in making asphalt rubber.
``But our 20 years of research shows energy recovery still produces greater benefits,'' he said. ``Using scrap tires in cement kilns, the whole tire is consumed, whereas with asphalt rubber you have wire and fabric that's still trying to find a home someplace.''
Because the Rubber Manufacturers Association requires unanimity among its members before it takes a position on a public issue, it has remained silent on Section 1038.