By Dan Shapley
Congressional concern over global warming, national security and near-record gasoline prices trumped some of America's most effective lobbying efforts yesterday. A key Senate committee approved the first significant fuel economy increase for vehicles in decades. By 2020, automakers would have to ensure that their fleet of cars, light trucks and SUVs have an average fuel economy of at least 35 mpg. Currently, their car fleets must average 27.5 mpg, and light trucks and SUVs must average just 22.2 mpg. Similar proposals have been defeated in recent years after heavy lobbying by the automobile industry. Many Democrats that won election in November campaigned on the issue of fuel economy as one piece of the overall energy security solution. This proposal still has to pass the full Senate and House of Representatives, but with some key opponents having turned around, it has a better chance of passage this time than in years past.