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House Easily Passes Energy Bill

Legislative clerk Ann Nguyen, left, does last-minute arrangement of amendments to the energy bill. The House passed the bill 275-156.
AP
As expected, the House approved a mammoth energy plan for the nation by a wide margin Thursday. The bill, passed by a 275-156 vote, sends billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to energy companies, but is expected to do little to reduce U.S. oil consumption or dampen high energy prices.

"This is a good bill for America," declared Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, a key author of the legislation. "It is for America's future."

Congress now awaits action by the Senate, probably on Friday.

President Bush, facing public pressure to outline a direction for the nation's energy strategy amid soaring oil prices and high gasoline costs at the pump, had called on Congress to give him an energy bill before departing for lawmakers' five-week summer recess.

The 1,725-page bill, the product of weeks of compromise between widely different versions approved by the two chambers earlier this year, would provide $14.5 billion in energy tax breaks, much of it to traditional energy companies. It also provides money for promoting renewable energy sources and new energy technologies and measures to revitalize the nuclear power industry.

The bill doubles the amount of corn-based ethanol that has to be used in gasoline, bans oil drilling in the Great Lakes and extends daylight saving time, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss.

Critics claim the bill fails to require better gas mileage from cars and sport utility vehicles and does not require conservation efforts to reduce imports of foreign oil or do anything about soaring gas prices, Fuss adds.

"It is not a perfect bill," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. But he called it "a solid beginning" to diversifying future energy sources, improving the nation's aging electricity grid and fostering more energy conservation.

Opponents called the legislation a giveaway of taxpayer money to large energy companies, including wealthy oil giants reaping record profits with crude oil near $60 a barrel and gasoline averaging well over $2 a gallon.

"This bill is packed with royalty relief, tax breaks, loan guarantees for the wealthiest energy companies in America even as they are reporting the largest quarterly profits of any corporation in the history of the United States," complained Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.

"It is politically and morally wrong," he said.