The United States is boosting fuel efficiency standards in automobiles for the first time in 32 years.  VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, President Bush signed the new standards into law.

The new energy policy requires cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average 15 kilometers per liter by 2020.  That is nearly five more kilometers per liter of fuel than American motor vehicles currently average.

It sets tougher efficiency requirements for refrigerators, freezers, and dishwashers, and requires a 70 percent increase in the efficiency of light bulbs.

President Bush says the measures address one of the most serious long-term challenges facing the nation: dependence on foreign oil.

"Because this dependence harms us economically through high and volatile prices at the gas pump," the president explained.  "The dependence creates pollution and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.  It threatens our national security by making us vulnerable to hostile regimes in unstable regions of the world.  It makes us vulnerable to terrorists who might attack oil infrastructure."

The law does not go as far as the president's goal of cutting American gasoline use by 20 percent in 10 years, but it does have much of the funding for ethanol that Mr. Bush requested.

The law requires the annual production of more than 136 billion liters of renewable fuels by 2022.  Of that total, more than half of the ethanol must come from sources other than corn, such as wood chips or switch grass.

The law also sets tougher efficiency standards for the construction of new commercial properties and improvements in federal buildings.

The bill passed Congress only after Democrats agreed to cut billions of dollars in new taxes on oil companies that were to be used to subsidize wind, solar, and geothermal production.  President Bush threatened to veto the measure if it included those higher costs and a requirement for utilities to produce more electric power from renewable sources of energy.