Congress OK's Energy Bill, Bush Set to Sign
Congress by a wide margin approved the first increase in automobile fuel economy in 32 years today (Dec. 18), and President Bush has signaled he will accept the mandates on the auto industry.
The Associated Press reported that the energy bill, boosting mileage by 40% to 35 miles per gallon, passed the House 314-100 and now goes to the White House, following the Senate's approval last week.
In a dramatic shift to spur increased demand for nonfossil fuels, the bill also requires a six-fold increase in ethanol use to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a boon to farmers. And it requires new energy efficiency standards for an array of appliances, lighting and commercial and government buildings.
"This is a choice between yesterday and tomorrow" on energy policy, declared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who was closely involved in crafting the legislation. "It's groundbreaking in what it will do."
The centerpiece of the bill remained the requirement for automakers to increase their industrywide vehicle fuel efficiency to an industry average of 35 mpg by 2020 compared to today's 25 mpg when including passenger cars as well as SUVs and small trucks.
Congress has not changed the auto mileage requirement since it was first enacted in 1975.
Democrats said the fuel economy requirements eventually — when the fleet of gas-miser vehicles are widely on the road — will save motorists $700 to $1,000 a year in fuel costs. They maintain the overall bill, including more ethanol use and various efficiency requirements and incentives, will reduce U.S. oil demand by 4 million barrels a day by 2030, more than twice the daily imports from the volatile Persian Gulf.
The automakers have repeatedly fought an increase in the federal fuel standard, known as CAFE, maintaining it would limit the range of vehicles consumers will have available in showrooms and threaten auto industry jobs. Bush also has argued against an arbitrary, numerical increase in the fuel efficiency requirement, preferring instead legislation to streamline the federal requirements and market incentives to get rid of gas guzzling vehicles.
But the automakers have accepted the political shift toward a tougher requirement. After the Senate approved the legislation last week, the White House immediately said Bush would sign it once it reaches his desk.