Looks like a data point that fits the alternative energy bubble inflation hypothesis. Asterisks added for emphasis.




The U.S. Senate passed an energy bill late Thursday that includes an increase in automobile fuel economy, new laws against energy price-gouging and a requirement for huge increases in the production of ethanol.

In an eleventh-hour compromise fashioned after two days of closed-door meetings, an agreement was reached to increase average fuel economy by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon for cars, SUVs and pickup trucks by 2020.

The measure now awaits action by the House, which is expected to take it up next week. But attempts to combine the two bills and send legislation to President Bush probably won't be possible until later this year.

It would be the first increase in vehicle fuel efficiency since the current 22.7 mpg for cars was put in place in 1989 and the first time Congress has imposed a new auto efficiency mandate in 32 years.

Details of the agreement:

***The legislation provides a bonanza to farmers and the ethanol industry. It requires ethanol production to grow to at least 36 billion gallon a year by 2022, a sevenfold increase of the amount of ethanol processed last year.

- Price gouging provisions that make it unlawful to charge an "unconscionably excessive" price for oil products including gasoline and give the federal government new authority to investigate oil industry market manipulation.

- New appliance and lighting efficiency standards and a requirement that the federal government accelerate use of more efficient lighting in public buildings.

*** Grants, loan guarantees and other assistance to promote research into fuel efficient vehicles, including hybrids, advanced diesel and battery technologies. percent ethanol or biodiesel fuels. ***

-- The legislation for the first time would establish a single fuel economy standard applicable not only to cars, but also SUVs and pickups, which currently have to meet less stringent requirement.

The minimum fuel efficiency would vary for different classes of vehicles based on weight and size, but all vehicles would be expected to increase their fuel economy by 10 mpg over today's levels by 2020. Manufacturers would be required to meet an overall fleet-wide average of 35 mpg.

- The Associated Press