WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The U.S. Congress moved Saturday to provide $25 billion in low-interest loans to the auto industry as part of a plan to speed development of fuel-efficient vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Senate voted 78 to 12 to pass a broad spending bill that includes $7.5 billion to start the loan program. The House passed the bill earlier in the week, and President George W. Bush is expected to sign it, the newspaper said.

The loan program drew approval as part of a 2007 energy bill requiring vehicles to have an average fuel economy of 35 miles a gallon by 2020 -- a 40 percent increase over the previous standard.

Automakers and parts suppliers will use the loans to reconfigure auto plants to make hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles.

The loans are expected to principally benefit General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Originally posted on Green Fleet Magazine

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