Washington The cars, SUVS and pickups people will buy in the years ahead are likely to use less fuel, and many will rely on ethanol or household electricity instead of gasoline.
The energy legislation pushed through the Senate this week provides a roadmap to the future, demanding higher automobile fuel economy, mandating huge increases in ethanol as a motor fuel and supporting more research into building "plug-in" hybrid-electric vehicles.
While Senate Republicans complained that the bill does nothing to increase domestic oil production, Democrats said that's because the nation must move energy policy away from its heavy reliance on oil.
The House is preparing its own version.
The Senate bill requires automakers to increase fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon, about a 40 percent increase over what cars, sport utility vehicles and small trucks are required to achieve now. It would lump all the vehicles under a single regulation, but also give manufacturers flexibility so large SUVs wouldn't have to meet the same requirements as smaller cars.
It requires a yearly increase of ethanol production to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a sevenfold increase from today. By 2015 half of the new vehicles offered to buyers - as many as 10 million - will have to be capable of running on 85 percent ethanol, biodiesel or some other alternative energy source.
Ford Motor Co. is committed to increasing auto fuel economy, said Alan Mulally, the company's chief executive officer. "It's what customers want. It's what they value."