Senate-approved energy bill calls for fuel-economy increase

First, the good news: the U.S. Senate has passed an energy bill containing the first significant fuel-economy increase in years. The bill requires cars and light trucks to get an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, up from the current 22.2 mpg for light trucks and 27.5 mpg for cars. It also calls for limits on gasoline price-gouging; new appliance and lighting efficiency standards; funding for research into newfangled vehicles like plug-in hybrids; and a sevenfold increase in ethanol production by 2022 (oops, file that under “Now the bad news”). “This bill starts America on a path toward reducing our reliance on oil,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). But it was a mixed bag for Democrats, who were forced to axe big ideas including $32 billion in renewable-energy tax breaks and a 4 percent annual increase in fuel economy from 2020 to 2030. Still, they did a jig over the vote: “I’m flabbergasted,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “I thought we’d be arguing this all night.”