A Senate committee is close to proposing a significant increase in federal fuel-economy requirements for sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, putting pressure on the White House and setting up a battle among auto makers over the fine print, according to a story by Jeffrey Ball in the Wall Street Journal. The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Jan. 24 on the auto-mileage standards. The committee is likely to propose a significantly higher increase than the House approved last year, according to the Journal. The Journal quoted committee staff member familiar with the discussions as saying that the panel is considering proposing that the total U.S. auto fleet, which now averages about 24 miles per gallon, be required to achieve an average of between 30 and 39 mpg starting sometime between the end of this decade and the middle of the next one. The details have yet to be worked out, and it's iffy that any fuel-economy recommendation by the committee will make it out of Congress amid a series of other problematic energy-related issues now before the Senate. Still, even the low end of the range under consideration by the Senate committee is much higher than the mileage increase proposed last year by the House, which according to some estimates, amounted to an increase of only about one mpg over a similar timeline. As a result, at the very least, the Democrat-controlled Senate Commerce Committee's recommendation is likely to pressure the Bush Administration, whose National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is conducting its own study of what to do about the mileage rules, to consider a substantial increase, according to the Journal.