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Democrats reach deal to boost automobile fuel economy by 40 per cent

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Congressional Democrats reached a compromise late Friday to boost automobile fuel economy by 40 per cent, clearing the way for a House vote probably next week on an energy bill that Democratic leaders would like to send to President George W. Bush before Christmas.

The agreement came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reached an accord with Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.), a longtime protector of the auto industry that dominates his home state, to ease the impact of the new fuel economy requirements.

``A compromise has been reached on automobile fuel efficiency standards,'' Dingell announced in a statement.

Automakers would be required to meet an industrywide average of 56 kilometres per gallon for cars and light trucks, including SUVs, by 2020, the first increase by Congress in car fuel efficiency in 32 years.

With oil prices hovering near $90 a barrel, Democrats have been eager to sent Bush a package of new energy measures.

But Democratic leaders were stymied over disagreement on the auto fuel efficiency issues as Dingell, the longest-serving member of the House and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, insisted on some provisions to ease the transition for automakers.

Under the agreement, the ability of carmakers to use production of so-called flex-fuel vehicles that run on 85 per cent ethanol, would be extended to 2020 and more flexibility would be given in the ramp-up of fuel efficiency for SUVs and pickup trucks, although overall the industry must achieve 56 kpg average counting all vehicles.

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Democrats reach deal to boost automobile fuel economy by 40 per cent
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