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December 17, 2007 10:00 AM, EST

Senate OKs Energy Legislation; Includes Truck Mileage Study

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the Dec. 17 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

After two failed attempts, the Senate late on Dec. 13 passed an energy bill that includes the potential start of a program to increase heavy-duty truck mileage.

The bill passed by a vote of 86-8, after Senate Republicans successfully blocked it twice because it included $22 billion in tax increases.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill “will begin to reverse our addiction to oil, and it takes a small first step in our fight to turn the tide of global warming.”

The centerpiece of the bill is the first increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy for cars and other light vehicles in more than 30 years and the ordering of a study of how best to regulate mileage standards for large trucks.

According to the bill, cars and light trucks both would have to reach an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2013. Currently, cars must average 27.5 mpg and light trucks 22.2 mpg.

The bill also orders the National Academy of Sciences to study how best to measure the fuel economy of heavy trucks. It eventually would require the government to create a “fuel efficiency improvement program” for heavy trucks, aimed at achieving “the maximum possible improvement.”

Earlier on Dec. 13, Senate Republicans successfully blocked the bill over what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said were objections over tax increases and a renewable electricity mandate, which Democrats removed after the first attempt to pass the bill.

Senate Republicans also blocked passage on Dec. 7.
“The final product is not perfect, but it’s vastly better than the version that was sent to us by the House,” McConnell said in a statement. “The House bill couldn’t pass the Senate and wouldn’t be signed into law. So we fixed it. And now it will.”

The larger bill passed the House on Dec. 6 by a 235-181 margin. Democratic leaders in the House said they intended to bring the smaller measure up for a vote this week.

The Bush administration had objections to the larger bill but supported the Senate’s new version.

“If this legislation makes it to the President’s desk, he will sign it into law,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.