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Bush signs bill raising auto fuel efficiency standards

  • Story Highlights
  • New law raises auto fuel efficiency standards
  • Increase to fleet average of 35 miles per gallon is first in 32 years
  • Senate majority leader calls bill a "great, wonderful first step"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday signed a sweeping energy bill that he said would help the country become "stronger, cleaner and more secure."

President Bush on Wednesday signs a bill raising auto fuel economy standards for the first time in decades.

The bill -- approved overwhelmingly Tuesday by the House of Representatives -- raises automotive fuel economy standards for the first time in more than three decades, requiring a corporate average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

It also boosts federal support for alternative fuel research and energy conservation efforts.

A Republican filibuster in the Senate removed provisions that Bush objected to that would have eliminated tax breaks for oil companies and a requirement that electric utilities produce a portion of their power from alternative sources.

The current fuel-economy standards of 27.5 miles per gallon for passenger cars and 22.2 for light trucks were established in 1975. The new bill sets a single average standard for manufacturers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Tuesday's bill was "a great, wonderful first step for an energy revolution that starts in America and ripples throughout the world."

But Reid said Democrats would continue pushing to shift federal tax breaks away from fossil-fuel producers and into renewable energy research -- one of the party's top priorities when it took control of Congress in January.

House opponents such as Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, complained that the bill will undo many of the efforts made to foster increased production of fossil fuels in an energy bill passed in 2005.

"I understand the consequences of elections. I understand there's a new majority," said Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. "I do not understand how what made sense two years ago doesn't make sense today."

Barton called the legislation a "no-energy" bill and "a recipe for recession," arguing its mandated conservation measures would raise prices for fuel, homes and appliances for consumers. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report.

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