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House approves raising fuel economy standards

  • Story Highlights
  • House passes bill to increase fuel economy standards by 40 percent
  • Bill would repeal billions of tax subsidies
  • Current standards were passed in 1975
  • Republicans say bill going nowhere in the Senate
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By Deirdre Walsh
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives passed the first major increase in fuel economy standards in more than 30 years with a 235-181 vote.

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The House-passed bill requires automakers to increase fuel standards by 40 percent by 2020.

The energy bill requires automakers to raise their average fuel economy standard by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

The current standard -- 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 for trucks --was passed in 1975.

Supporters say raising these standards, known as CAFE, will result in significant fuel savings.

Although the auto industry and many Republicans support the bill's new CAFE standards; the bill's $21 billion in taxes complicate its prospects for passage in the Senate. The bill would repeal billions of tax subsidies, including $13 billion for the nation's five largest oil companies.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio slammed the bill, saying, "You can't tax your way to energy independence. You can't tax your way to providing a greater supply of energy in America. And you can't just have more government regulations on the industry and expect that we're going to have more energy in the pipeline."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the bill would save consumers $22 billion, but said the energy bill won't have an immediate impact on the price of gas. "It may not go down tomorrow, but the fact is we are making a plan for the future and this is consumer legislation, and as soon as we can bring those prices down we will."

The bill also includes a mandate that electric utility companies generate 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources of energy such as wind, biomass or solar power by 2020.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, argued the "renewable energy standard" leaves out some technologies like clean coal and hydrogen, and is "almost impossible to meet" by most states.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill. Earlier this week, the president's chief economic adviser, Allan Hubbard, wrote to Pelosi, citing the renewable electricity mandate and the taxes as unacceptable.

While House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, argued the bill's passage would be a "historic step in moving our nation toward real energy independence," Republicans said the bill was going nowhere in the Senate.

House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, told reporters the bill could be made more palatable to the White House and congressional Republicans if the Senate stripped the tax provisions and the renewable energy standard.

"It's a shame when the House has to be saved by the Senate for bad policies," Blunt said.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he planned to take up the energy bill on Saturday, saying he would call senators running for president back to Washington for the vote. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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