WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats reached a compromise late yesterday to boost automobile fuel economy by 40 percent. The deal clears the way for a House vote, probably next week, on an energy bill that Democratic leaders would like to send to President Bush before Christmas.
The announcement was made after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reached an accord with Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, a longtime protector of the auto industry that dominates his home state, to ease the impact of the new fuel economy requirements.
Automakers would be required to meet an industrywide average of 35 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks, including sport utility vehicles, by 2020, the first increase by Congress in fuel efficiency in 32 years.
With oil prices hovering near $90 a barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, Democrats have been eager to sent Bush a package of new energy measures.
Under the agreement, the ability of carmakers to use production of so-called flex-fuel vehicles that run on 85 percent ethanol would be extended to 2020 and more flexibility would be given in improving fuel efficiency for SUVs and pickup trucks.