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    Fuel Standards Rejected

    Senate gives the federal government two years to develop its own targets.

    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate yesterday rejected a proposal for a 50 percent boost in fuel efficiency for gas-guzzling cars and sport utility vehicles, giving a victory to the auto industry.

    Instead, lawmakers gave the federal government two years to develop its own targets. They also agreed to exempt pickup trucks -- which account for 19 percent of automakers' sales -- from any future increases in vehicle fuel requirements, Reuters reported.

    However, it remained uncertain whether the Senate's fuel economy provision would become law because it is part of an underlying energy bill that faces a tough fight through next week.

    Instead of boosting fuel standards, the Senate approved a weaker provision requiring the federal government to first consider the impact of higher fuel mileage requirements on passenger safety and job losses in the auto industry.

    The amendment, which passed 62-38, does not call for specific increases in vehicle fuel economy and leaves it to the Transportation Department to decide. Separately, the Senate voted 56-44 on an amendment to exempt pickup trucks from future increases in vehicle fuel standards.

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