A landmark bill hiking fuel-economy standards for autos and authorizing the creation of regional efficiency standards for HVAC equipment has run into trouble in the U.S. Senate.

The bill easily passed the House Dec. 6, but Democratic supporters in the Senate were unable to secure enough votes to cut off debate and send the bill to a vote. A number of GOP lawmakers, along with the Bush administration, oppose its provisions to remove tax breaks for oil and gas companies and requirements that 15 percent of electricity eventually comes from renewable resources.

A number of HVAC groups have been lobbying lawmakers to strip sections of the bill that allow the Department of Energy to establish regional efficiency rules for furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps.

Currently, such equipment must conform to one nationwide minimum efficiency standard.

The bill’s problems in the Senate gives industry groups such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the Heating, Refrigerating and Airconditioning Distributors International, and the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors more time to let senators know their concerns, although they acknowledge their efforts so far have not been successful.

“Regionalizing heating and cooling efficiency standards would eliminate the largest markets for the most affordable equipment, causing immediate cost increases for those states whose standards might not even change at all,” said Gee Talbot, HARDI vice president.

Prospects for any revised bill in the Senate are iffy. Congress is expected to leave soon for its end-of-year break. Supporters are hopeful a compromise can be reached this week.