U.S. passes energy bill

Lawmakers consider a new energy bill approved by the House Thursday the best available compromise to stimulate U.S. energy production and conservation in coming decades. The bill is thought to be able to affect what cars Americans buy, the kind of gasoline in their tanks, how electricity is produced and the time on their clocks.

The House passed the 1,725-page bill on Thursday by a 275-156 vote. The Senate is likely to follow Friday. Bush, who has pushed for a new energy policy since the beginning of his first term, plans to sign the bill next week. The president has acknowledged the measure will have little impact on oil or gasoline prices.

According to USA Today, advocates for more domestic energy production are not satisfied with the $13.9 billion bill. Neither are those who want to reduce consumption. The American Petroleum Institute said "more must be done" to open coastal areas and the West to drilling. The National Environmental Trust said the bill does not do enough to address "environmental concerns ... and national security."

Seventy-five Democrats joined Republicans in moving the 1,725-page legislation through the House.

''It is not a perfect bill," Representative John Dingell of Michigan, the top House Democrat involved in crafting the legislation was quoted as saying by Boston Globe. ''But it is a solid beginning to developing an energy strategy for the 21st century."

Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, who chaired the House-Senate conference that crafted the final legislation, called it a bill ''for America's future."

Sponsors said it would improve the nation's electricity grid and foster energy conservation as well as production. In a move widely awaited in the Farm Belt, it also calls for doubling the use of corn- produced ethanol in gasoline to 7.5 billion gallons a year by 2012.

The measure also gives the federal government, rather than states, the right to approve the construction of liquid natural gas import terminals, making it harder for opponents in California or other states to block such facilities, Houston Chronicle says.

The bill also increases the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1 billion barrels from 300 million barrels and bans oil drilling in the Great Lakes.

A provision that had passed the Senate to require the president to find ways to reduce U.S. oil demand by 1 million barrels a year by 2025 was abandoned because of strong opposition from House Republicans and the administration.

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