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Business in brief: Fuel-efficiency raise proposed

A key Senate panel on Friday proposed raising fuel efficiency requirements on all vehicles, including tractor trailers and large trucks, in an attempt to respond to concerns about energy security without crippling the domestic auto industry.

Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, released legislation that would achieve a nationwide fleet fuel economy average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for passenger cars, pickups and sport utility vehicles, about 40 percent higher than the current average of about 25 mpg.

After 2020, cars and trucks would need to show improvements of 4 percent a year in efficiency. But the Transportation Department would have leeway on the standards if the industry cannot meet the rules.


Weyerhaeuser profits increase

Weyerhaeuser Co., one of the world’s largest lumber and paper producers, said Friday it rebounded to a profit in the first quarter, mostly because of gains from its move last year to combine the company’s fine paper business with Montreal-based paper-maker Domtar Inc.

Weyerhaeuser also said it was considering whether to sell its containerboard, packaging and recycling business. The company said its board of directors had authorized a broad strategic review of that division and that alternatives included continuing to run that part of the business, selling it off or a combination.

Wall Street welcomed news of the possible restructuring, and shares of Weyerhaeuser surged $4.87, or 6.2 percent, to $83.02 in afternoon trading.


Cherry farmers feeling optimistic

Five straight years of record crops aren’t dimming Northwest cherry growers’ predictions for 2007, as more acreage comes into production and volume continues to climb from varieties that ripen later in the summer.

Growers are estimating the 2007 crop at between 140,000 and 150,000 tons for the five-state region that includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana. Most of that is grown in Washington, where this year’s crop should be about 120,000 tons, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers, a promotional group for growers and shippers.

In 2006, Washington state cherry growers harvested an all-time high 117,000 tons.